Anne A. Cheng

Anne A. Cheng
Anne A. Cheng
Professor

Anne Anlin Cheng is Professor of English and of the Center for African American Studies.  She is also affiliated with the Program in American Studies and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.  She specializes in race studies, aesthetic theory, film and psychoanalytic theories, working primarily with twentieth-century American literature with special focus on Asian American and African American literatures.  She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief (Oxford University Press), which explores the notion of racial grief at the intersection of culture, history, and law.  Her second book Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (Oxford University), tells the story of the unexpected intimacy between the invention of a modernist style and the theatricalization of black skin at the turn of the twentieth century.  This study, awarded Honorable Mention by the Modernist Studies Association for their annual Book Prize, situates Baker’s provocative nakedness within larger philosophic and aesthetic crisis about the ideal of the “pure surface” that crystallized at the convergence of modern art, architecture, machinery, and philosophy.  Cinespect calls this book "a playful, insanely ambitious text that seeks to rethink standard assumptions about Modernism, race and Josephine Baker . . . The book performs the admirable service of making Josephine Baker, the world she inhabited, and the skin that inhabited her seem stranger and more complex than they did before."   

Articles by Cheng include: “Sushi, Otters, Mermaids: Race at the Intersection of Food and Animal,” forthcoming from Resilience;  “Keyword: Modernism,” forthcoming in A Companion To Asian American Literature and Culture; “Sheen: On Glamour, Race, and the Modern,” PMLA; “Skins, Tattoos, and Susceptibility,” Representations; “Psychoanalysis without Symptom,” Differences; “Skin Deep: Josephine Baker and the Colonial Fetish,” Camera Obscura; and “Ralph Ellison: Melancholic Visibility and the Crisis of American Civil Rights,” Journal of Law, Philosophy, and Culture, and more.  She is currently working on two projects: one on Race Studies at the intersection of Food and Animal Studies; the other on the politics behind “ornament” as an aesthetic and philosophic discourse in the early 20th century.

Cheng received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing at Princeton, her Masters in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of California at Berkeley.  Prior to coming back to Princeton, she taught a wide range of courses at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, on topics such as literary theory, cultural studies, race and gender studies, psychoanalytic theory, postcolonial theory, film studies, poetry and poetics. 

Cheng is the founder and organizer of the public conversation series Critical Encounters (http://www.princeton.edu/africanamericanstudies/events/critical-encounters/) whose aims are to promote dialogue between art and theory and to encourage cross-disciplinary conversations on the shared topic of social justice.  Recent programs include a collaborative student reenactment of the Minoru Yasui Trial, with Judge Denny Chin; a dramatic student reading of a new play by playwright Philip Kan Gotanda; a screening of new works by and conversation with filmmaker Isaac Julien; a conversation between contemporary experimental playwrights Jorge Ignacio Cortinas and Young Jean Lee.  Coming up this year (AY 2013-2014), look for a conversation between activist/filmmaker Alex Rivera and Professor Carlos Denena from Rutgers on the topic of “cinematic bodies” in October and in November a film screening of Lovelace (2013), followed by a conversation with its director Jeffrey Friedman.