Discovering the Subplots–cfp

CFP: Discovering the Subplots: the (De)construction of Gender, History, and Power, ACLA 2023 Seminar

In her 2019 book Ornamentalism, Anne Anlin Cheng looks at the historical relationship of conflation between person and thing and the problematic relationship between Asiatic femininity and its entwinement with commodities and artifacts. Asian bodies, Asian women particularly, have been simultaneously embodied and erased through ornamental objectness. Late imperial Chinese nuns were often portrayed in a hyper-sexualized way by male authors, serving as the spectacle for the voyeuristic gaze upon transgressive women. Similarly, opium smoking women in the nineteenth century who were condemned as the ills of traditional Chinese society further speak to the irony of the addict/viewers’ pleasure-seeking and the disembodiment of women in an empire in its twilight. In the twenty-first century, mingong (migrant peasant workers) migrated to metropolitan cities for better living conditions, only to find a delicately presented promise of urbanization. Likewise, in a media-saturated, online culture young women idealize the lavish city life, dissolving themselves in fashion and consumption. Living in pages, on stage, in pictures, and on screen, these people fade into mainstream discourses of commercial publishing, national salvation, urbanization, and fetishism. What are other subplots depicted in history and literary works? This seminar focuses on past and contemporary Asian women, seeking to envision alternatives to their simultaneously opaque and hyper-visible voices and presences through the analysis of a variety of genres, for instance, drama, newspaper, films, and animation. Ultimately, this seminar hopes to unfold a gendered and nonlinear story about Asian women’s “forgotten genealogy”, which combines their “life and nonlife, labor and style that conditions the modern human conceit” (Anne Anlin Cheng 442).

Please submit a paper proposal to, and join us for a great discussion on women, gender, literary and performance studies.

We welcome you to contact us (Shu Yang,; Xiaoqiao Xu, if you have any questions/concerns, thanks!

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