Broadly, Kris studies Black feminism, beauty, and Black popular culture.
She is completing her Doctorate in African American and African Studies at Michigan State University, with a graduate specialization in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her dissertation research examines cultural representations of Black women, specifically questions around standards of beauty and depictions of Black natural hair.
At the intersection of social media usage, a trend in organic products, Black female celebrities “going natural,” and a widespread interest in do-it-yourself culture, the late 2000s opened a space for Black American women to stop chemically straightening their hair via products known as “relaxers” and begin to wear their hair natural. This trend has resulted in an Internet-based cultural phenomenon now known as the “natural hair movement.” Within the context of this natural hair movement, new conversations around standards of beauty, hair politics, and Black women’s embodiment have flourished within the public sphere—largely aided by new media.
Her project maps these conversations, by exploring contemporary expressions of Black women’s natural hair within cultural production.
Using textual and content analysis, Kris investigates various sites of inquiry: natural hair product advertisements and Internet representations, as well as the ways Black women’s hair texture is evoked in recent song lyrics, television scenes, and non-fiction prose by Black women. Each of these sites of inquiry—“hair moments”—offers a complex articulation of the ways Back women experience, share, and negotiate the historically fraught terrain that is Eurocentric standards of beauty and racialized body politics.
Kris' work contributes to longstanding debates within beauty studies, Black feminist cultural criticism, and racialized body politics. Additionally, her project sits at the intersection of many still developing ideas and trends: the Internet-based contemporary Black women’s natural hair movement; the relationship between social media and cultural representations; and an interdisciplinary melding of pop culture studies, gender studies, and Black Studies. Ultimately, the project uses hair as a vehicle for recovering agency and interiority within Black women’s uses of their bodies, within a cultural landscape that constantly tries to tell them who and what they are.
Interested in collaboration, consultation, or bringing her to speak? Contact Kris here.
Rowe, Kristin Denise. Beyond “Becky with the Good Hair’: Hair, Beauty, and Interiority in Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s ‘Sorry.” eds. Baade. C, Smith, M., and McGee, K. Making Lemonade: Finding Art, Activism, and Community with Beyoncé in Troubled Times. Wesleyan University Press (Forthcoming, 2019).
Rowe, Kristin Denise. “Beyond ‘Good Hair’: Negotiating Hair Politics Through African American Language.” Women and Language, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Forthcoming, May 2019)
Rowe, Kristin Denise. “Nothing Else Mattered After That Wig Came Off’: Black Women, Hair, and Scenes of Interiority.” Journal of American Culture, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Spring 2019): 21-36: https://doi.org/10.1111/jacc.12971
Randolph, Antonia, Holly Swan, and Kristin Denise Rowe. “That $hit Ain’t Gangsta’: Symbolic Boundary Making in an Online Urban Gossip Community.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 47, No. 2 (2018): 609-639 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0891241617716744
Rowe, Kristin Denise. “Review of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul by Tanisha Ford.” International Journal of Africana Studies. Vol. 18, No 1 (2017): 127-131
Rowe, Kristin. “Review of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana Byrd and Lori L. Tharps.” The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies. Vol. 35, No. 2 (2016): 203 – 205