Anne Anlin Cheng is Professor of English and the Center for African American Studies and Director for the Program in American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief (Oxford University Press) and Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (Oxford University).
What is the relationship between ornament and law? In what ways can the law be said to decorate a body, and what does it mean to recognize legal personhood as being indebted to a sartorial imagination? This talk juxtaposes a significant but little known nineteenth-century immigration case and a much more celebrated nineteenth-century photo archive as two "primal" moments in the collusion between law, visuality, race, and gender and argues that the juridical making of the raced body is also the moment in which that body disappears. This is, in short, a story about the the critical shift in law and in visual culture from racialized visibility
to racialized visuality, a turn that takes place as early as the nineteenth century and continues to impact how we think about race and visuality today.
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