Untangling the Family Archive: Hairy Objects and the Stories We Weave

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


From the cradle to the grave, hair has long been associated with important rites of passage in the human life-story. Originating from the body, hair is imbued with the special affective power to tell stories about us in ways not possible with other objects. Hair has subsequently been refashioned into wearable items that enable us to remember and mourn the dead; we mark ‘big firsts’ in our lives with haircuts; and we keep hairy mementos of baby curls. Drawing on the results of a survey that asked participants about their experiences of keeping, curating, and encountering hairy objects, this chapter explores the role that hair plays in the creation of family archives today. It reveals how hair is used by individuals to make manifest their family histories and stories, a practice that cuts across the species divide. While we continue to commemorate important events in our human families with hairy mementos, these traditions are increasingly part of how we interact with our animal companions too. The chapter suggests that our interest with hairy things is rooted in their perceived ability to connect us with the past in a way not made possible by other objects. Hair, in the past and today, is imbued with special meaning, and has implications for the stories we weave with it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInheriting the Family: Objects, Identities and Emotions
EditorsKatie Barclay, Ashley Barnwell, Joanne Begiato, Tanya Evans, Laura King
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Aug 2023


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