Decolonising My Body

Decolonising My Body

A radical exploration of rituals and beauty


A 2023 POLITICAL BOOK OF THE YEAR (WATERSTONES) | 'GROUND-BREAKING' Bernardine Evaristo | 'UNIVERSAL AND TIMELY' Elif Shafak | 'IMPORTANT' Sathnam Sanghera | 'A GENEROUS OFFERING' Nana Darkoa Sekiyamah | 'QUIETLY RADICAL' Evening Standard | 'INTIMATE' Guardian

What can ancestral practices teach us about how to live fuller lives today?

Upon turning forty, Afua Hirsch had an encounter that forever altered her preconceived notions of ancestry and body image, making her question everything from body-modification rituals such as tattoos and piercings to the foundations of sexuality, as well as attitudes towards puberty, ageing and death. This book charts her year-long journey of radical unlearning. Bringing together global scholarship, on-the-ground reportage, personal anecdotes and interviews with beauty experts, practitioners and service users, she reassesses notions of body image beyond those of the colonial, patriarchal gaze.

Decolonising My Body is a powerful excavation of the Eurocentric beauty standards that have long shaped how, in particular, those from the Global Majority are perceived and view themselves. Taking us from puberty to end-of-life, Hirsch shows us that the ways in which we adorn and present ourselves have spiritual implications and shape the possibilities we see for ourselves in the world.

These insights and discoveries will empower you to reconnect with your own ancestry, better understand the link between beauty, history and (respectability) politics, and liberate yourself from mainstream standards and systems that aren’t serving you.

*Co-host of the LOYALTY podcast with Peter Frankopan*


  • Exceptionally rich, inspiring, challenging, wise and moving. I didn't realise I needed this book until I read it and felt stirrings towards my own ancestral awakening of African female cultural beliefs and practices that were sadly long ago lost to the colonial project. This is a ground-breaking book that speaks to all women.
    Bernardine Evaristo, author of 'Girl, Woman, Other'

About the author

Afua Hirsch

Afua Hirsch is a writer, filmmaker, and journalist. She is the author of Brit(ish), the Sunday Times bestselling book that explores Britishness, identity and belonging, for which she was awarded the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction. She co-presented Enslaved, a 6-part series about the transatlantic slave trade with Samuel L Jackson. She is also the presenter of the Audible podcast series We Need To Talk About the British Empire, and Africa Rising, an ongoing flagship series about art and culture for the BBC, through the production company she founded, Born in Me Productions. She is a longtime columnist for the Guardian and is a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
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