Editorial

Studies in the Maternal, 2009 1(1)

Mapping Maternal Subjectivities, Identities and Ethics

Editorial - Lisa Baraitser and Sigal Spigel,
with Rosemary Betterton, Polona Curk, Wendy Hollway, Tracey Jensen, Gavin Miller, Tina Miller, Rozsika Parker, Kate Pullinger, Joan Raphael-Leff, Tracey Reynolds, Lena Simic, Alison Stone and Imogen Tyler

 

 

Introduction

Welcome to the first issue of Studies in the Maternal. This is a new interdisciplinary journal that aims to provide a forum for critical research on motherhood, mothering and the maternal. The maternal is understood broadly as lived affective and embodied experience, social location and social relation, political and scientific practice, economic and ethical challenge, and as a theoretical question and structural dimension in human relations, politics and ethics.

The impulse for the establishment of Studies in the Maternal came from a series of workshops, symposia and conferences organised during 2007 and 2008 by an international research network entitled MaMSIE (Mapping Maternal Subjectivities, Identities and Ethics). These events involved gatherings of academics, artists and practitioners from diverse disciplinary backgrounds who met to share their scholarly research and creative work on contemporary maternal issues. The range of issues raised during these events was varied and yet uniformly marked by a sense of urgency around growing inequalities for women who mother, and the ongoing complexities of the politics of reproduction. Our discussions ranged over new theoretical possibilities for accounts of maternal subjectivities, especially within contemporary psychoanalytic and feminist discourses; queer maternal bodies and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered maternal practices and subjectivities; the reproduction of maternal identities through intergenerational processes; maternal ethics and the ethics of care; representations of motherhood in relation to the so-called ‘war on terror’ and the relation between motherhood and emerging racial and classed identities; yummy mummies, celebrity mums, and constructions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ motherhood; the maternal-feminine and its relation to abjection and monstrosity; the cultural politics of natality, birth and reproduction and the impact of assisted reproductive technologies both on women’s lives and on the genetic imaginary; childcare and child-rearing in the context of shifting family forms and new constructions of fatherhood; maternal narratives and genres of mother-writing, the power of digital texts to give voice to maternal experience including the rise of blogs and other online maternal cyberspaces; matricide, mother-blaming and maternal hatred, and more besides.

Despite many participants continuing to find disciplinary bases from which to work on maternal themes, as well as exploring the maternal through the practices of visual culture, creative writing, performance, and in the clinic, the study of the maternal does not itself constitute a disciplinary field. Motherhood is seldom included as a distinct part of any teaching syllabus and there has, until recently, been only one research centre dedicated to the study of motherhood and mothering worldwide. The reasons for this are complex, as are the ethics of establishing such a research focus rather than one that, at least in name, refers to parenting or reproduction in the generic. Whether the study of the maternal can and should incorporate discussions of parenting and fatherhood (or indeed whether the study of the maternal should continue to take place within the wider context of studies of the family), and whether the maternal remains a useful, though perhaps tense analytic category, will be discussed in this inaugural issue, and we hope in many future editions of Studies in the Maternal. The purpose of the journal is to provide transdisciplinary spaces for these open questions to circulate, perhaps through the provocation of providing such spaces before really knowing what will emerge. Our point here is simply to note that the intensity of discussions and the interest in MaMSIE meetings have highlighted the need for a variety of dedicated forums to draw together and debate the many different genealogies of the maternal and what we may call ‘maternal futures’ across a broad range of disciplinary and practice boundaries. Both interdisciplinarity and inter-relations between theory and practice are therefore at the heart of Studies in the Maternal.

Studies in the Maternal is edited by Lisa Baraitser and Sigal Spigel alongside an editorial board whose members are Gail Lewis, Kate Pullinger, Rachel Thomson and Imogen Tyler, with additional editorial input and support from Polona Curk, Tracey Jensen, Bahar Tanyas and Reina van der Wiel. Our experience and expertise wander across a multi-various terrain, taking in cultural studies, critical race theory, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology, creative writing, digital media, social theory and clinical practice. Our personal relations to the maternal are also diverse. We therefore hope to be well-placed to foster dialogue about the maternal in its ethico-political, psychosocial, relational and practice dimensions, and to help explore the unique site the maternal occupies at the potent intersection between scientific possibilities, psychosocial practices and cultural representations.

Studying the Maternal

For this inaugural issue we are delighted to include scholarly papers by Gail Lewis, Griselda Pollock and Rachel Thomson, a short-story by the author Helen Simpson, and an interview with Lynne Segal. Their different contributions reflect only some of the very many shapes that maternal studies can take. In addition, we have asked thirteen scholars, artists, creative writers and psychoanalysts (Rosemary Betterton, Polona Curk, Wendy Hollway, Tracey Jensen, Gavin Miller, Tina Miller, Rozsika Parker, Kate Pullinger, Joan Raphael-Leff, Tracey Reynolds, Lena Simic, Alison Stone and Imogen Tyler), to make short contributions in response to the question ‘why study the maternal, and why now?’ You will find these contributions embedded in this text.

In our own view, one of the reasons why it may be efficacious, necessary and perhaps even desirable to establish a new dedicated space to explore the maternal, is that the maternal subject, perhaps more than any subject position, is downright slippery. ‘She’ is one of those ever-present and yet shadowy figures who seems to disappear from various discourses that specifically try to account for her. The disappearance of the mother, conceived of as a kind of theoretical matricide by some (e.g., Jacobs 2007), became a major topic in feminist critiques of psychoanalysis and philosophy through the 1970s and 1980s. Theorists such as Juliet Mitchell, Madelon Sprengnether, Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixious, Julia Kristeva, Ann Snitow, Jane Flax, and artists such as Mary Kelly, dismantled classical Freudian and Lacanian models of subjectivity that hinged on Oedipal configurations by making visible and theorising the crucial role of the mother, and especially the maternal body, in early psychic life. However, as many have pointed out (Kraemer 1996; Rose 1996; Benjamin 1998; Parker 2005; Baraitser 2009; amongst others), despite these considerable efforts to discuss maternal subjectivities, just as she is on the cusp of being articulated, the mother appears to subtly slip back into one of her traditional positions as the receptacle that conceives form but lacks form herself; as mirror, or container for intolerable feelings; a body with bits attached or bit missing, an ambivalently experienced psychic object who gives rise to repudiation, hatred and fear, and ultimately must be both idealized and abjected (Kristeva’s (1987) ‘necessary matricide’) in order that the subject – the child, but also the male auto-affective subject more generally – can emerge unscathed. A psychoanalytic reading of this tendency for slipperiness may posit that we all, as infants, have needed to conjure up an ever-present fantasy mother, a necessary ideal whose features include the capacity to find just the right balance of presence without impingement (Winnicott 1963, p.86), who is able to remain partly in the shadows, and then gradually but appropriately ‘fail’ (ibid., p.87) and finally fade away. We fantasise that our mothers are ‘there to be left’ (Furman 1982), subjects defined by the capacity to disappear, only to find that this ideal is radically misaligned with the reality of our mothers, and ourselves as mothers. What we do with this disjunction between the ideal mother who gracefully fades or silently steps aside for the sake of the child, and the lived realities of female and maternal subjects, is, we would argue, the very space for new accounts of maternal subjectivities to emerge. Hence maternal subjectivity could be thought of as the creative aporia between the ideal and our realities – what we do, day in and day out, with that misalignment, not as a form of lament, but as a way of recognising that navigating this space is itself an agentic practice. Without this deliberate, perhaps strategic focus on the generative capacity within motherhood for new subject positions, it is all too easy to see how the maternal subject, conceived of as an ideal form of disappearance, coupled with her inevitable failure to live up to even this ideal, so easily becomes an object of hate.

Griselda Pollock argues in this first issue of Studies in the Maternal that one symptom of the ongoing dereliction of the maternal is the foreclosure in psychoanalytical and philosophical thought of the potentiality of the encounter between the prenatal and the prematernal, a position that is feared by pro-choice feminists and mystified by pro-life lobbies alike. Through a careful reading of Bracha Ettinger’s theoretical writings (Ettinger 2006; Lichtenberg-Ettinger 1995, 1997), Pollock explores the maternal-feminine as a structuring dimension of the human capacity for compassion and ethical relations. For Pollock, Ettinger’s body of work acts both as a critique of the Freudian and Lacanian tradition and of psychoanalytic object relations theory, in which there is both an acknowledgement and latent horror of the maternal exhibited through the infamous notion of the ‘good-enough mother’. Ettinger instead moves us towards the idea that the maternal, as both too much and simultaneously not enough, is itself a primal structuring fantasy that is fundamental to our psychic life.

In parallel with the absence or reduction of the maternal within psychoanalytic discourse, it is possible to track a latent aversion and/or absence of the maternal across a full range of scholarly disciplines and representational fields. For example, as Imogen Tyler (2000) has argued, the pregnant subject is absent from the history of philosophy but, once ‘animated’, maternal corporeality powerfully questions philosophical models of subjectivity that are grounded in indivisible individualism. As this analysis suggests, the question becomes not simply one of ‘inclusion’, but of thinking the maternal as an alternative to, and outside of, inherited and prescribed modes of thought, in order to explore the kinds of subjectivities maternal relations engender. Deborah Paes de Barros (2004) makes a similar point, proposing that maternity allows women to define themselves as ‘nomadic’, defying the universals and constants that comprise patriarchy due to the ways that maternal bodies lie between theories, negotiating that difficult in-between space. Maternity conceived of in this way also allows a pathway through traditionally polarised feminist debate that articulates female subjectivity as either cultural constructivism on the one hand, or pre-discursive biology on the other.

By exploring the multiplicity of maternal voices and experiences, we not only bring to the fore what has been excluded and made absent but potentially introduce a multiply constituted subject, one who ziz-zags across the material, biological, social and cultural terrain, ongoingly going astray. Foregrounding the daily, mundane, and at times relentless aspects of maternal material practices that resist attempts to narrate them into organised, coherent, fixed accounts, we contribute to more complex representations of maternal subjectivities and point towards these alternative modes of thought that Imogen Tyler suggests. Helen Simpson’s highly evocative and influential short stories, one of which is re-published here, is an example of a thoroughly creative engagement with going astray. By keeping open the question of what constitutes the maternal, as well as who is the subject of maternal work, we allow different ideas about the psychosocial, about ethics and encounter, psychoanalytic motivations and politics to come into view.

Despite the theoretical absence of the maternal subject, mothers as both consumers and as producers of the next generation of consumers, are of course everywhere we look. Whilst Kristeva (1975) has famously declared that the modern West appears to be the first culture not to have a discourse on motherhood, we paradoxically live in a culture saturated with maternal representation and maternal imagery, and motherhood remains a site of intense governmental regulation and control. This has largely been achieved through the creation of historically and culturally specific notions of what constitutes good and bad mothering (Urwin 1985; Rose 1990; Phoenix, Woollett & Lloyd 1991), underpinned by psychoanalytic and psychological discourses of the importance of intense and prolonged maternal attention drawn from the work of John Bowlby, D. W. Winnicott, Benjamin Spock and Thomas Brazelton, and more contemporary psychological researchers and child psychotherapists such as Jay Belsky and Sue Gerhardt. The targeting of mothers to implement child rearing in specific ways has had the double function of regulating families and family life as well as controlling the reproduction of the next generation of consuming citizens. This targeting is not uniform, but singles out women of colour, and women of different ethnic backgrounds and social classes for specific cultural and national reproductive functions (Reynolds 2006). From this perspective, mothers are understood to take on the particular classed and raced aspirations, norms and desires that are being articulated by wider political forces, and through a process of subjectification in the Foucaultian sense, take on the twin tasks of conforming to the norms that are prescribed to her, and taking on her own self-regulation (Rose 1990; Hollway 2001).

In the context of advanced global capital, with its monotonous insistence on individualism and consumption accompanied by extreme anxiety and precarity (Warner 2005), there is now a renewed focus on motherhood as a site for acute anxieties about (re)productivity: ‘the tasks of birthing and raising future workers and consumers are increasingly presented to women as a curious and urgent mixture of a career (with its own regimes of training, information and on-the-job surveillance) and sacrificial moral vocation’ (Quiney 2007, p.20). Many authors have drawn attention to the dominance of ideologies such as patriarchy, conservatism or more recently neo-liberalism in the shaping of maternal meanings and maternal practices (Dally 1982; Everingham 1994; Glenn, Chang & Forcey 1994; Ruddick 1989; Thurer 1993, 1994; Tivers 1985; Pitt 2001; Warner 2005; Quiney 2007; Tyler 2008), drawing attention to the fact that mothering is neither universal, private nor singular, and cannot be thought of outside of the workings of global capital. In keeping with analyses of the ways global capital functions (Braidotti 2006), this gives rise to the simultaneous proliferation and celebration of the sheer diversity and multiplicity of maternal experience, whilst re-territorialising maternal desire for the purpose of commercial profit. In the meanwhile, the specific effects of race, poverty and social deprivation on mothering experience continue.

And yet we must keep on seeking out more nuanced readings of the relationship between structural forces and lived experiences, readings that can hold onto the specific effects of memory, trauma and identification that saturate our early lives, especially as they are transmitted and played out inter-generationally between mothers and daughters. Both Gail Lewis and Rachel Thomson, in this issue, open us to poignant and moving accounts of the subtle and relentless interplay between power and raced and classed experience. We look forwards to the opening of these debates further in future issues.

Debating Terms, Gendering the Maternal

What do we refer to when we use the term ‘the maternal’? Terms are slippery, restraining at times, simultaneously naming and performing, establishing norms and yet releasing new possibilities for understanding and meanings.

Adrienne Rich famously distinguished between ‘two meanings of motherhood, one superimposed on the other: the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction – and to children; and the institution – which aims at ensuring that that potential – and all women – shall remain under male control’ (Rich 1986, p.13, original emphases).

Since then, ‘mothering’ has been used largely to signal the realm of maternal experience, and ‘motherhood’ to refer to the institution, one that Rich claimed back in 1977 to be the cornerstone of the most diverse and yet consistently repressive and degrading social and political systems that alienated women from their bodies, created the dangerous schism between public and private, and ghettoised female potentialities. Rich’s polemic belongs to a certain moment in feminist theorising of the maternal, one that was later challenged, especially by black feminists, for its essentialised model of gender relations that did not account for the effects of social class and in particular race in understanding both men and women’s relation to patriarchy (Collins 1994, 1995; Reynolds 2006). Of Woman Born, (Rich 1977), however, remains a key text in maternal studies due to Rich’s insistence on an analysis that held onto both institution and experience, and invites us to continue to take up the challenge of mapping their inter-relation in an era characterized less by patriarchy in the sense Rich used the term, and more by global capital and its ramifications.

Literatures on the maternal use not only the distinction between motherhood and mothering to signify institution and experience, but refer variously to mother-work, maternal practice, maternal desire, maternal identity, maternal subjectivity and maternalism. Each term brings a slightly different theoretical framework and perspective, illuminating a different aspect of maternal research. Terry Arendell (2000) has identified four overlapping research domains in motherhood studies in recent years that hint at these different theoretical frameworks: identities and meanings of mothering; relationships with both children and others; experiences and activities of mothering; and social locations and structural contexts within which women mother. Arendell notes that overall, much maternal research tends to be feminist, critical and hermeneutic, exploring the construction of shared meanings and the historical, cultural and situational contexts out of which people act. Notions of mothering, motherhood, the family and childhood are not taken as immediately understandable or transparent, but are problematised and analysed, particularly through the study of ‘deviancy discourses’ (Arendell 2000, p.1195). These discourses, within the US context for instance, have involved debates about single mothers, welfare mothers, minority mothers, immigrant mothers and gay and lesbian mothers, all of whose mothering practices challenge dominant notions of ideal mothering. As Wilson and Huntington (2006) have recently demonstrated, discourses around working mothers in the UK continue to provoke similar ‘deviancy’ debates.

Much scholarship and empirical research on mothering is concerned with the social practices of nurturing and caring for dependent children. Definitions of mothering within this scholarship can be quite broad. For example, ‘mothering’ has been defined as ‘a socially constructed set of activities and relationships involved in nurturing and caring for people’ (Forcey 1994, p.357). The term ‘mother’ here can describe a range of people who may be involved in these tasks, including men, and does not confine mothering to the caring of children. Sara Ruddick (1980), for example, insisted in her early work that ‘maternal work’ be distinguished from naturalistic notions of mothering, and understood as a coherent set of ethical tasks and functions that could be performed by men and women alike. The related notion of ‘maternalism’ (Brush 1996) has been used to describe a set of arguments that support women’s claims to integrity, autonomy, dignity, security and a political voice on the basis of their mother-work. Maternalist claims can be used to try to increase women’s access to material and cultural capital through recognition that in order to meet the needs of dependent children, the person involved in mother-work needs bodily integrity, moral autonomy, material security, relational integrity and political efficacy (Brush 1996, p.430).

From an interdisciplinary perspective, however, we believe it is important to highlight a particular tension between two different accounts of the maternal. The first focuses on maternal work, thought of as a coherent set of ethical tasks and functions that centre around the preservation of a child’s life, the fostering of their growth and the development of a capacity for social acceptability (Ruddick 1989). The second focuses on unconscious intersubjective dynamics (Hollway 2001). This account foregrounds the mutual development of ‘mother’ and ‘child’ through another kind of maternal work that entails containment and reverie (Bion 1962) (that peculiar psychoanalytic form of thinking), and effective management of both the child’s and one’s own ambivalence (Parker 2005). From this latter perspective, maternal subjectivity emerges as a form of relational and emotional work, as well as a term used to refer to the ways in which ‘fantasy, meaning, biography and relational dynamics’ inform how each woman takes up a position in relation to a variety of discourses about mothering (Featherstone 1997, p.7). This means acknowledging not just what we bring to mothering from within and without, but how the relational dynamics of mothering itself have transformational potential in terms of both the self and wider social and political formations.

Wendy Hollway has extended this position, helping to illuminate the gendered aspects of maternal subjectivity. Drawing on early debates begun by Nancy Chodorow in The Reproduction of Mothering (1978) and extended by Jessica Benjamin (1988, 1995, 1998), Hollway argues that fathers do not ‘mother’, but can develop a capacity to care based, as she sees it, on whether fathers, as boys, ‘were able to retain their positive identification with maternal capacities to care for them, while at the same time coming to terms with being boys’ (Hollway 2006, p.99). She argues that maternal subjectivity arises out of a woman’s position in relation to ‘the absolute, unconditional demands of a dependent infant, especially if that infant has been a part of her’ (ibid., p.64). Though she raises the issue of biological mothers having a more immediate experience of embodied subjectivity through the experience of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, she is careful to distinguish biological mothers from maternal subjectivity, the latter being open to what she terms ‘non-mothers’ who remain available for transformative experiences through the practices of childcare. The maternal subject is understood, then, as a gendered subject who is structured by a relationship to a child (Hollway 2001). Mothering becomes parenting in the feminine due not only to the particular experiences of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, but because of the uses the child makes of sexual difference.

Sara Ruddick has also more recently argued that maternal and paternal practices remain distinct. Although she understands parenting as the ‘complex ongoing work of responding to children’s needs in particular economic and social circumstances’, work that is not prima facie associated with either sex, the younger the children and the more physical their demands, the more likely this work will be assigned to women (Ruddick 1997, p.206). To talk only of parenting ‘denies the history and current practice of female mothering – including women’s disproportionate responsibility for childcare’ (ibid.). And, as Shelley Park (2006) has pointed out, it is not only an issue of maternal practice. Paternal bodies are not mediated by the same cultural expectations and norms as maternal bodies. She advocates using the way adoptive maternal bodies are rendered ‘queer’ by pronatalist perspectives, to critique dominant views of mothering without losing sight of the differences between maternal and paternal bodies.

Contributors and readers of this journal will form their own views of how far to stretch the term ‘maternal’ and what may constitute maternal work, mothering, maternal subjectivity and so on. We look forward to the debates that may ensue.

Maternal Futures

There is no doubt that motherhood has remained a problematic issue for feminism and feminists. Whether viewed as embodied practice, theoretical construct or social relation, the maternal challenges hard-won feminist notions of autonomy whilst at the same time serving as the nodal point through which ‘the central concepts of feminist theory are elaborated, and a site at which these concepts are challenged and reworked’ (DiQuinzio, 1999, p.xi). However, despite claims that the Women’s Liberation Movement forgot about mothers (e.g., Freely 1995), we would contest this, honouring Lynne Segal’s view that contemporary feminism tends to turn its back on its ‘rougher parent, and the motley basements, living-rooms, workplaces and community centres in which it was hatched’ (Segal 1999, p.10). In an interview in this issue, Segal supports her view that mothers and mothering were key parts of the feminist agenda from the 1970s and beyond (Segal 2007), and discusses with Lisa Baraitser how she sees the future of debates between feminism and the maternal unfolding.

There is a widespread perception that women in many parts of the world have made real strides towards full equality with men. In the workplace, for example, almost all countries of the world, apart from the USA and a handful of others, have recognised the need and entitlement of mothers to paid maternal leave. Yet, it seems that these old struggles for sexual equality, especially in relation to maternity, constantly transform, mutate and perpetuate. As Imogen Tyler argues in this issue, there is overwhelming evidence in 2008 that many of the political and social gains achieved by British women in the last three decades are being rapidly eroded. In the USA, the social and economic costs of motherhood have been well documented, showing that the impediment to advancement is no longer gender but parenthood (Hochschild 1997; Hays 1998; Crittenden 2001).

Feminist scholarship on motherhood has both increased and broadened its scope, tracking the effects of globalisation and economic migration on maternal labour (e.g. Anderson 2000; Chang 2000; Cox 2006; Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2004; Romero 1992), investigating lesbian and queer motherhood (e.g. Hequembourg 2007; Ryan-Flood 2008), and exploring the impact of assisted reproductive technologies that attracts analysis at personal, cultural and political levels (e.g. Franklin and Roberts 2006; Klein 1989; Nahman 2008; Strathern 1992). The contribution of new reproductive technologies to changing parenting practices and family forms, as well as producing new nodes of desire and fantasmatic and imaginary configurations, allows for a variety of maternal subjectivities to emerge. Yet, worries have also been raised regarding the potential for new reproductive technologies to limit women and mothers’ autonomy (Wilker 1986), and there have been calls not to lose sight of other affective economies, such as loss and trauma, that are part of the new genetic imaginary (Klein 1989).

Whilst work on lesbian parenting from psychological perspectives has focused on establishing that children born to lesbian couples can have ‘the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can parents who are heterosexual’ (Golombok 2002, p.1407), writers on queer subjectivities such as Epstein (2002) and Park (2006) hold to the view that exploring queer motherhood in its various manifestations can widen the range of not only queer identities but also of maternal subjectivities themselves. This view echoes our interest in the maternal as an epistemic standpoint enabling the illumination of social maladies intervening in a variety of orthodox discourses.

Alongside this broadening of feminist scholarship on the maternal, we have seen a veritable explosion in recent years of literature, creative writing, performance and visual culture that foregrounds maternal experience. We have seen an outpouring of personal literary accounts of the ‘real story’ of motherhood, where the joys and struggles of motherhood are described in minute and often agonising detail (e.g., Cusk, 2001; Enright 2004, Gunn 2007), alongside literary explorations of the ambivalences of motherhood (e.g., Pullinger). Blogs, on-line magazines and websites seem to offer a collective and at times anonymous space for the expression of multiple maternal voices, as well as being symptomatic of the increasingly repressive ways women take on the tasks of new versions of idealised motherhood. Rosemary Betterton, in this issue, and elsewhere (Betterton 2006), highlights the work of Susan Hiller, Catherine Lewes, Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper, Helen Chadwick, Christine Borland, Elizabeth Mackenzie and Anna Furse, amongst many others, as examples of artists exploring maternal ambivalence, birth, the pregnant body and maternal subjectivities.

At the end of a decennial review of scholarship on mothering, Arendell (2000) highlights some gaps in the literature and asks a series of pertinent questions within each thematic domain highlighted in the review. Questions include: how do various women feel about being mothers; what meaning do they ascribe to mothering; how are women’s sexual lives, desires and experiences affected by mothering activities and the status of mothering; what is the mothering project, as mothers see it; what is the character of the relationships between particular mothers and their children; what, exactly, do mothers do; what is the character of mothers’ daily lives; how do mothers negotiate the activities of child-rearing; how are women affected by mothering; and how do women actively resist the dominant ideologies of mothering a family? It is interesting to note that these questions are concerned with subjective experience, focused on feelings and meanings thrown up by motherhood, and attentive to the detail of lived experience and agency in relation to maternity. They highlight the direction of current research: a willingness to engage in mothers’ subjective experiences of mothering whilst holding in view the context in which such subjectivities emerge, are structured and also impact in their turn on such a context. Arendell concludes:

We need more attention to the lives of particular mothers – to mothers’ own voices – and to the lives and voices of diverse groups of mothers […]. We need work that connects mothers’ personal beliefs and choices with their social situations. (Arendell 2000, p.1201)

Whilst this is clearly the case, we hope that Studies in the Maternal will not only provide spaces for such work, but also for the theoretical analyses that allows coherent accounts of those connections to be made.

This editorial represents a heterogeneous and partial mapping of just a few trends in maternal research, and what we would like to term ‘maternal studies’. We hope that the accumulated body of literature that will be published in this forum will reflect the multiplicity of voices that the maternal compels, and will enhance diversity of all kinds. Publishing an online journal has many untapped potentials, including fostering a more relational academic exchange, and we look forward to contributors and readers using the Studies in the Maternal blog to good effect. We hope that, altogether, this corpus of works and your future contributions will create a generative space for maternal subjectivities, identities and ethics to be debated and heard.

 

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