linen market
1 december 2022

Rethinking Hair and Beauty with Jonathan Michael Square

Rethinking Hair and Beauty with Jonathan Michael Square

For this public lecture we have invited Dr. Jonathan Michael Square, in conversation with Dr. Priya Swamy, to present his research on head wraps worn by free and enslaved women in south Louisiana as a point of departure to explore hair and beauty culture in black communities in the 18th and 19th-century United States, the Caribbean, and beyond.

When and where:

1st of December

Nooterzaal, Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden

14.00 - 16.00 

Registration is free, but spots are limited, please email: to reserve a spot. 


Dr Jonathan Michael Square

Jonathan Michael Square is the Assistant Professor at Parsons School of Design. Dr. Square was also a 2021-22 fellow in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was previously a lecturer in the Committee on Degree in History and Literature at Harvard University.

The recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, Dr. Square’s work considers histories of enslavement through the lens of fashion, and his research appears in numerous scholarly and public-facing venues – such as Ms Magazine, Hyperallergic, Winterthur Portfolio, Small Axe, among others. Just to give you a brief glimpse at the range and texture of his work: Square has written on such topics as Harriet Tubman’s unacknowledged style, Brooks Brothers’ entwined history with slavery, Gee’s Bend quilts, the costumes in the Netflix film Passing, and the racial performance of CGI model Lil Miquela.

Dr. Square has also curated several exhibitions, including Slavery in the Hands of Harvard and solo show of the work of historian and artist Nell Irvin Painter. He currently has an exhibition at the Herron School of Art and Design titled Past Is Present: Black Artists Respond to the Complicated Histories of Slavery. He is also founder of the digital humanities project “Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom” – and is currently at work on a book project titled Negro Cloth: How Slavery Birthed the American Fashion Industry.

Priya Swamy

Dr. Priya Swamy is the curator of Globalisation and South Asia at the National Museum of World Cultures.

Priya holds a BA in World Religions from McGill University (Canada) and an MPhil and PhD in Area Studies from Leiden University. Her research explores the ways in which people in and from Indian diasporas innovate and rearticulate their religious and political beliefs across historical moments and social contexts. Her work has focused particularly on the movement of Indian labour diasporas into Suriname from India, but also from Suriname into the Netherlands. Focusing on the everyday narratives of community stakeholders, Priya is committed to a critical, multidisciplinary, and globally-focused approach to studies of Hindu identity, Indian material culture, and migration. At the museum, she looks to the multivocality of objects to demonstrate to a wide audience that material culture belongs to many places at many different times.

Before joining the museum, Priya has lectured on questions of South Asian cultures, histories, and literature at Leiden Institute for Area Studies. She has held postdoctoral positions at Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV),  Tilburg University, and Leiden University. Her research has been published in journals such as Citizenship Studies, International Journal of Hindu Studies, and Contemporary South Asia. Her book on the decades-long struggle of a Hindu community to build a temple in the Bijlmer (Amsterdam) is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press.