Feminist Duration Reading Group: Anne Anlin Cheng: Ornamentalism
5 February 2019

Tues 5 Feb, 7 – 9pm
Free & open to all

I want to think through, rather than shy away from, that intractable intimacy between being a person and being a thing. Let us then build a different historiography of raced bodies: one constructed through fabrics, ornaments, and skinsthat never enjoyed the fantasy of organicity; one populated by non-subjects who endure as ornamental appendages. Let us substitute ornament for flesh as the germinal matter for the making of racialized gender. Let us, in short, formulate a feminist theory of and for the yellow woman. Anne Anlin Cheng

The February meeting of the Feminist Duration Reading Group looks at Anne Anlin Cheng’s 2018 essay Ornamentalism: A Feminist Theory for the Yellow Woman to explore the emergence and construction of East Asian femininity through and as ornament.  The session will be led by FDRG Working Group member Justin Seng.

Drawing upon past conceptualisations of racial embodiment,  Cheng investigates the material and synthetic affinities that are invoked in the human ontology of the East Asian woman — one indebted to notions of commodity, artifice and objectness. Ornamentalism provides a necessary contribution towards a field of Asiatic feminism that is often elided or absent in feminist discourses, and proposes new modes of articulating and tackling well-rehearsed problems of racial and sexual commodification and objectification. By exploring these alternative technologies of personhood and their mechanisms, ornamentalism offers a framework for interrogating notions of racialised flesh and the limits of the politics of personhood.

Together we will read:

Anne Anlin Cheng,"Ornamentalism: A Feminist Theory for the Yellow Woman,” Critical Inquiry 44, no. 3 (Spring 2018), pp 415-446.

Please bring copies with you. No advance reading is required as we will read together, out loud, on the night.


The Feminist Duration Reading Group focuses on under-known and under-appreciated feminist texts, movements, and struggles from outside the Anglo-American feminist tradition. Started at Goldsmiths, University of London, in March 2015, since July 2015 it has been generously hosted by SPACE in Hackney.  The group also regularly meets in non-institutional spaces, including in community centres and in the homes of friends of the group where cooking and eating combine with reading and talking.

The Feminist Duration Reading Group welcomes feminists of all genders and generations to explore the legacy and resonance of art, thinking and collective practice from earlier periods of feminism, in dialogue with contemporary practices and movements. It is led by the Feminist Duration Working Group whose current members are Giulia Antonioli, Angelica Bollettinari, Lina Džuverović, Sabrina Fuller, Lily Evans-Hill, Félicie Kertudo, Mariana Lemos, Roisin O’Sullivan, Ceren Özpinar, Sara Paiola, Helena Reckitt, and Justin Seng.  

If you would like to join the reading group mailing list, propose a focus for a subsequent session, or invite us to lead a meeting, please write to feministduration@gmail.com.