Hairdos and Don?ts: Hair Symbolism and Sexual History in Samoa
Mageo, Jeannette Marie
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Hair is one of the classical foci of scholarly musing about the body, attaining this focal status through the seminal essay of Edmund Leach, "Magical Hair." My intention is to draw the strands of this debate into a coherent conversation and to contribute to the colloquy by exploring transformations of feminine sex roles in Samoa from contact to the present. I do so by viewing changes in hair styles as indices of changes in these roles, arguing that the rules for hairdos that pertained to young women in precontact Samoa paralleled "dos and don'ts" for their sexual behavior and that changes in the former and the latter coincided. I use historical and ethnographic sources to document their changes, as well as data collected during my own eight-year residence in Samoa from 1981 to 1989.