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Lauren Michele Jackson

Lauren Michele Jackson is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago as well as a freelance writer and critic. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, FADER, The Point, The New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Complex, among other places. She is currently working on a collection of critical essays entitled White Negroes: Love & Theft in the New Millennium, forthcoming from Beacon Press, as well as a dissertation on black sound and disorder.

Beyoncé and the Glory of Black Femme Hairography”
This paper considers how black woman- and femmehood is subtly, yet powerfully, articulated in the contours and movements of a fraught subject -- hair. From Tina’s spiked mane, to Missy E’s gelled waves, from Nicki’s neon wigs to Twigs’ baby hairs, Azealia’s rapunzel weave and Solange’s fro, hair has long been and remains a crucial avenue for black women and femmes to emit from the vexed place that marks the intersection of blackness and femmehood. I am interested in how hair movement -- hairography, broadly considered -- much like its bodily counterpart and conspirator, agitates the matrices that script black women and femmes and play with notions of the unruly black female body. Iterated by queer and non-queer performers alike, hairography is a femme aesthetic, always and inevitably queer through the influence of ball culture past and present. Hair is never just hair, especially when in motion. A weave pat like the flap of a butterfly’s wing. As a persistently visual music artist, persistently choreographed artist, and artist willing to absorb and perform a diverse array of movements from various black cultural scenes (including the ballroom), Beyoncé offers a rich videography in which to observe hairography in action. While she has only recently been credited with embracing black womanist imperatives, her early work -- and hair -- tell a different story. As part of a wider tradition in which black women and femmes necessarily sound their identity to lower frequencies, hairography is one frenzied, fabulous means to put gender, blackness, and power in motion.