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Karen Domínguez Mendoza

Downing College
Supervisor: Dr Mónica Moreno Figueroa


I was born and raised in Cali (Colombia), near the delightful Pacific Coast. I received my BA degree with Best Graduate distinction in Political Science and Conflict Resolution at Universidad del Valle in 2020. After my graduation, I moved to Europe to pursue my postgraduate studies. In Germany, I completed a Master’s in Development and Governance at Universität Duisburg-Essen, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) — Helmut Schmidt Programme. In my Master’s thesis, I examined the linkage between the cultural repertoires of conflict-affected Afro-Colombian communities and reparation policies in a transitional justice context. Furthermore, I have significant working experience in civil society organisations and the corporate sector.

I recently started my PhD journey, fully funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust. I developed a keen interest in researching the intersection of Black/Afro-hair aesthetics, anti-racism, ethnic entrepreneurship, and local development as an undergraduate student. This nexus was rooted in my lived experience as a Black woman with “kinky” hair, connected to the embodied notions of beauty and their impacts on the concepts and practices of development in a racist context. Thanks to further engagement with Afro-hair grassroots organisations working on aesthetic anti-racist practices, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Black women's resistance repertoires through their hairstyles. One of the main conclusions was that they use their hairstyles as a mechanism to develop political and economic strategies to gain power and autonomy. This conclusion serves as the foundation for pursuing my doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge.


My research explores how 'entrepreneurial anti-racism' might shape the development agenda of Black aesthetics movements in Colombia, particularly from the Caribbean and the Pacific Coasts. Therefore, it seeks to dig into the interconnections between ‘entrepreneurial anti-racism’ and racial capitalism, which are contesting economic dynamics for Black women in the country. Moreover, I draw the salience of traditional hairstyling know-how and the tensions arising from culture preservation and market.

Selected publications

• Domínguez Mendoza, Karen Giselt. (2022). Afro Hairstyles, Politics, Identity, and Resistance. The Case of Black Women from the Groups AMAFROCOL and Entre Chontudas in Cali, Colombia. Estudios Políticos, (65).

• Domínguez Mendoza, Karen Giselt & Rosero González, Tatiana Andrea. (2017). Justice amongst the Grass. The Gacaca Courts and their Reconciliation Lessons for Colombia. Estudios Políticos (Universidad de Antioquia), 51, pp. 218-239. DOI: 10.17533/udea.espo.n51a11