Sa Lapo Ki Nou Ladan (The Skin We’re In): Explorations into Skin Politics

Saturday 6th July 2024

LVMH Lecture Theatre,

Central St Martins,

1 Granary Square,

King’s Cross,

London, N1C 4AA

9.30 am – 9 pm

Registration from 9am

CIAD’s third biennial dress conference investigates the relationship between skin and culture and looks at how skin has been used as a descriptor and signifier of identity and existence across the African Diaspora and the wider world. Skin has been used as a canvas for creative and cultural expression as well as being viewed of as a “costume” or dressed appearance in some fields. The very existence of the diaspora population is, in part, the result of false beliefs about dark skin and the behaviours of people who possess it.

As the largest organ in the human body, and the home for hair follicles, the skin is a great indicator of the general health and well-being of a person and holds a great deal of significance to the social, cultural, economic, and political movements and existences of people of African heritage. However, what can be constituted as “darker skin” is relative to the beliefs maintained in one’s environment. Cultural beliefs and practices have perpetuated a false narrative about what it means to have skin of certain shades and even how those shades are received in the digital space.

This conference will focus on three areas of examination around the topic of skin politics:

First Theme: Colourism/ Featurism and Texturism; How and why do these areas of phenotypic identity continue to be challenging within the 21st century. The focus here is on skin shade, facial features, hair texture, beautification, skin conditions and the social stratification that encompasses those fields.

Second Theme: Scarification and Body Modification; How the body has been used as a canvas of cultural, emotional, or political self-expression. This theme looks at cultural expressions such as tattooing, scarification, piercings, plugging’s and the meanings behind using one’s body as a contextual backdrop of culture and capital.

Third Theme: Digital Racialisation: How technology and generative systems have been used to improve the relation to skin shade dynamics. This theme focuses on the digital landscape, AI technology and its relation to racialisation. How are racialised people using digital platforms to produce and circulate acts of cultural creativity and what challenges have they faced or overcome in this field?

The symbolism attributed to the politics of skin shade is pertinent to cohesive engagement with other members of the human species and as such has developed a relevance that has become impactful to cultural practices and social mobility. This conference aims to provide a platform to facilitate greater discussion of this subject.