352pp., b/w & colour illus., paperback, First SA Edition, Johannesburg, 2020
First published in the USA in 2020.
"Beneath the Surface is nothing short of a tour de force. Lynn M. Thomas’s ‘layered history’ does justice to the immensely difficult subject of skin lighteners. Carefully attending to the complex politics of race and color that are grounded in skin, Thomas at once provides a vibrant history of South Africa and a global history of commodity, beauty, and the body. This landmark study sets a new standard in the field." Julie Livingston, author of Self-Devouring Growth: a planetary parable as told from southern Africa
"Allowing for a comparative analysis over a period of time when the global relationships and meanings of skin color became tied to class, race, and racism, Beneath the Surface helps us understand the intense and long-standing interest whites and blacks have had in lightening the color of their skin despite the potential for severe health risks. There is simply no other book like it." Noliwe M. Rooks, author of Hair Raising: beauty, culture, and African American women
Lynn Thomas is Professor of HIstory at the University of Washington. She is the author of Politics of the Womb: women, reproduction, and the State in Kenya.