Guest Post: ‘Toubab Cuts It All Off’ by Katie Krueger

Toubab Cuts It All Off

by Katie Krueger

One day, the Senegalese heat made me desperate to find ways to cool
down. Impulsively, I walked into the nearest Salon de Coiffure and
asked for a haircut and shampoo. As I was getting my hair washed, I
remembered what Richard, my stylist back home, used to say: “Katie,
we’re not just cutting off your hair; we are cutting style and
elegance into your hair.”

The Senegalese stylist sat me down in front of the mirror and we went
through the familiar dialogue.

“How much do you want cut off?”

“About two inches, I really want it layered…”

“Here?” she asked, tapping with the scissors on the bunch of hair
fisted in her grip.

Since she had not combed it out, parted it down the middle or
sectioned if off, I was sure this was just our planning session.

“Yes. I like it best when it sort of comes behind…”

CHOMP. I watched stunned as clumps of my hair, ragged-edged and
uneven, fell to the floor.

The looks of bewilderment that she threw towards my head made it clear
to me that my new coiffeuse had never cut a white woman’s hair before.
It was to late to change the situation, so I just sat back and watched
in amusement, as each chop seemed to both confuse and fascinate her.
When she got to the back of my head, she looked at me through the
mirror and her eyes waved the white flag of surrender. I glanced over
my head of uneven tufts and patches of hair and decided to cut my

I thanked and paid her and ran to my friend’s house, where we spent
the afternoon trying to cut back in the style and elegance that had
been swept away at the Salon de Coiffure.


Please visit the author’s website at


  1. Ahahaa! Hilarious! U should’ve known better!
    Your blog is very interesting, specially given Iam from senegal (Hal Pulaar). Seems like we our paths are going inverse ways!

    1. I have actually joked with firends that we should start our own journal and call it Null to publish articles where the research bore null findings. I think there’s value to researchers because: (1) We’ll be able to learn what’s been done before and wasn’t successful so that we won’t remake wheels that are un-make-able. (2) We’ll actually have a home for all of those projects we start but never finish because the preliminary analysis shows null findings. If we really believe what we’re testing is important, then even null findings would matter and should be publicized to our colleagues and the general public. More important than the academic world, however, is the world of health and development interventions. So little is reported about the failures (except of course via investigative journalism), that there are few opportunities to really learn what works and what doesn’t. And this is money and time we’re spending as we all sit in our silos implementing those things we think will work.

    1. This tour is an important step in eltnimaiing a practice that is so damaging to women’s lives. Some people are against talking about it, but following your example more people will have the courage to speak out, and change will come.

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