Gendered commodification of human body parts : A study of the trade with hair from Indian women

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Author: Lovisa Håkansson; [2020]

Keywords: Commodification; Gender;

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to illustrate how the phenomenon of trade with hair from Indian women, can be regarded as a case of gendered commodification of human body parts. It is illustrated with the assistance of postcolonial scholar Appadurai (1986), Scheper-Hughes (2001) and Sharp (2000) theories on commodification. Also, feminist perspectives by Mohanty (1997) and Sharp (2000), as well as theories on hair’s cultural and religious meanings in India developed by Olivielle (1998) and Miller (1998), are moreover applied to show of how the trade can be seen as gendered. By using the method of qualitative text analysis, an extensive bank of material on the topic has been investigated and later analysed. The first main conclusion is that women’s hair can be seen as being commodified given that it has achieved an economic value, has been objectified (become a product) and reduced into different parts when it is shaved off in temples and later made into wigs and hair-extensions.  The second main conclusion is that the trade is gendered because women perform underpaid work in the processing of hair. Accordingly, Indian women’s hair has specific properties and is therefore more attractive to the market and gendered cultural and religious notions tied to women’s hair can possibly be important for the existence of the market with Indian women’s hair.

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