Ornamentalism: A Feminist Theory for the Yellow Woman
French feminism, white feminism, black feminism…where is feminist theory for one of the oldest and most commonplace figures of sexist and racist denigration? Why is the Yellow Woman, always cited as victim, absent from theory? This talk proposes that the trope of Asiatic femininity limns a distinct kind of human figure whose endurance and enchantment entail a lasting, encrusted, and queasily appealing fusion between synthetic objecthood and organic personhood in ways that demand a fundamental reconceptualization of what Frantz Fanon has named the “racial epidermal schema.” This is a story about "yellow womanhood" and a story about a different kind of flesh in the history of race-making.
Anne Anlin Cheng is Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief and Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface.
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