Alumnus Fumiteru Nitta publishes book, Anthropology of Hair

Published in January 2023, Anthropology of Hair treats hair not merely for appearance or fashion, but as a body part which conveys, consciously or unconsciously, various symbolic meanings to others. It examines how various meanings of hair are related to the individual and society from anthropological perspectives in such areas as rites of passage, gender, women’s beauty and so forth.

British zoologist/ethologist Desmond Morris called humans the “Naked Ape,” but we have hair on top of head. On the one hand, we try to get rid of body hair as much as possible to remain as such. On the other hand, we are afraid of losing hair. This shows how important hair is as a body commodity for us.

 We also use hair to impress others, and categorize people to certain types according to its colors, lengths as well as its presence or non-presence. Hair has its own “language,” both negative and positive.

The last 2 chapters deal with hair in later years in our lives, namely male boldness and female grey hair, both of which have been looked at negatively. In Chapter 7, however, men’s bold head is seen positively, as looking natural and an indicator of men’s virility, etc. One example of this is seen in Yul Brynner, an American movie actor.  Chapter 8 looks at women’s grey hair as symbols of aged wisdom and elegance as seen such political leaders as Janet Yellen, the 78th US Secretary of the Treasury and Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank.

About Fumiteru Nitta

After having graduated from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo in 1967, Fumiteru Nittataught Japanese Culture and language at American schools on US Airforce base in Tokyo and US Navy base in Yokohama till 1977. Moving to Hawai‘i, he studied anthropology at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and obtained Ph.D. degree in 1989. In 1994, after teaching as an instructor for a few years at the University, he moved back to Japan to continue teaching anthropology and related areas as professor at Kibi International University (KIU) in Okayama Prefecture. In addition, he taught at Kurashiki University of Science and Art and Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare. In 2015, he retired as Professor Emeritus of KIU.

Since his retirement, he is active with volunteer groups such as Green Bird Okayama, for cleaning around JR Okayama and Kurashiki stations; Soja City Foreign Leaders of Disaster Prevention; as Advisor for Okayama Kurashiki Pilipino Circle (OKPC), a group of Filipina married to Japanese living in the area. In addition, he performs music a few times a year with his siblings at a senior residence in Tokyo.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni