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‘If Your Hair Is Relaxed, White People Are Relaxed. If Your Hair Is Nappy, They’re Not Happy’: Black Hair as a Site of ‘Post-Racial’ Social Control in English Schools


  • Remi Joseph-Salisbury

    (Sociology, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK)

  • Laura Connelly

    (Sociology and Criminology, University of Salford, Salford M6 6PU, UK)


A growing body of literature examines how social control is embedded within, and enacted through, key social institutions generally, and how it impacts disproportionately upon racially minoritised people specifically. Despite this, little attention has been given to the minutiae of these forms of social control. Centring Black hair as a site of social control, and using a contemporary case study to illustrate, this article argues that it is through such forms of routine discipline that conditions of white supremacy are maintained and perpetuated. Whilst our entry into a ‘post-racial’ epoch means school policies are generally thought of as race-neutral or ‘colorblind’, we draw attention to how they (re)produce and normalise surface-level manifestations of anti-Blackness. Situating Black hair as a form of ‘racial symbolism’ and showing Black hairstyles to be significant to Black youth, we show that the governance of hair is not neutral but instead, acts as a form of social control that valorises whiteness and pathologises Blackness.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Joseph-Salisbury & Laura Connelly, 2018. "‘If Your Hair Is Relaxed, White People Are Relaxed. If Your Hair Is Nappy, They’re Not Happy’: Black Hair as a Site of ‘Post-Racial’ Social Control in English Schools," Social Sciences, MDPI, vol. 7(11), pages 1-13, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:7:y:2018:i:11:p:219-:d:179982

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karen Graham, 2014. "Does school prepare men for prison?," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(6), pages 824-836, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tina G. Patel, 2018. "Race/Ethnicity, Crime and Social Control: An Introduction," Social Sciences, MDPI, vol. 7(12), pages 1-8, December.

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