Focusing on the cultural and philosophic conflation between the “oriental” and the “ornamental,” Ornamentalism by Anne Anlin Cheng offers an original and sustained theory about Asiatic femininity in western culture. This study pushes our vocabulary about the woman of color past the usual platitudes about objectification and past the critique of Orientalism in order to formulate a fresher and sharper understanding of the representation, circulation, and ontology of Asiatic femininity. This book alters the foundational terms of racialized femininity by allowing us to conceptualize race and gender without being solely beholden to flesh or skin. Tracing a direct link between the making of Asiatic femininity and a technological history of synthetic personhood in the West from the 19th to the 21st century, Ornamentalism demonstrates how the construction of modern personhood in the multiple realms of law, culture, and art has been surprisingly indebted to this very marginal figure and places Asian femininity at the center of an entire epistemology of race.
Drawing from and speaking to the multiple fields of feminism, critical race theory, visual culture, performance studies, legal studies, modernism, Orientalism, object studies and new materialism, Ornamentalism will leave reader with a greater understanding of what it is to exist as a “person-thing” within the contradictions of American culture.
- Offers what is arguably the first sustained theory of Asiatic feminism, filling a glaring absence in critical theory
- Brings legal history, cinematic history, and art history into a dynamic conversation
- Proposes a brand new way to approach the well-rehearsed problems of racial and sexual commodification and objectification
- Supplies original readings of previously overlooked materials: one of the most important habeas corpus cases of the 19th century, a fashion show at the Metropolitan Museum, a film by one of the great “race actresses” of the 20th century, and more