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New Directions in Law and Literature$
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Elizabeth S. Anker and Bernadette Meyler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190456368

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456368.001.0001

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Ornament and Law

Ornament and Law

Chapter:
(p.229) Chapter 13 Ornament and Law
Source:
New Directions in Law and Literature
Author(s):

Anne Anlin Cheng

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456368.003.0014

Who constitute “natural persons”? How do we move from a biological person to a legal standing? And what does a superficial, minor, and feminized category like the ornament have to do with these large questions? This chapter introduces a case that is little known but arguably one of the most significant habeas corpus cases in the nineteenth century in order to track the surprisingly critical role that racialized and feminized objects played in forming juridical ideas of natural and unnatural persons, legal and illegal subjects, citizenship and criminality. What this case reveals about how a body comes to be legally discernible holds profound implications and challenges for how we conceptualize citizenship and civil rights today.

Keywords:   ornament, legal personhood, immigration, Asiatic femininity, citizenship, anti-Chinese discrimination, aesthetic criminality, habeas corpus, racial legibility, orientalism

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