Timothy Minella

Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor in the Augustine and Culture Seminar Program at Villanova University

2017 to 2018
Research Fellow

By Their Locks You Shall Know Them: Race, Science, and Hair in the Nineteenth Century

In the 1850s, Philadelphia lawyer and naturalist Peter A. Browne published several works on the hair of humans and animals. As part of this obsession, Browne constructed an elaborate classification system for the hair of the human head, and he argued that the three different types of human hair that he identified corresponded with the three “species” of humankind: the flowing hair of whites, the kinked hair of blacks, and the straight hair of American Indians. Taking Browne as a starting point, I will analyze scientific and popular understandings of hair in the nineteenth century. I argue that the science of hair both constructed and was constructed by discourses of racial difference, and I show how naturalists classified black people’s hair as different from, and inferior to, other kinds of human hair.

Read more about Timothy's work here.