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Mothering and the Community

The second seminar was a great success. Thank you to Nickie, Maureen, Laura, Heather, Maud and April.
Date: Wednesday 23rd January 2008
Time: 5:30pm - 7:00pm (A wine reception will follow)
Venue: R0.03/4 (Ramphal Building)
This seminar will explore lived experiences, ideas and debates about motherhood and community, constituted in different class and cultural contexts. By placing these two concepts together, the seminar hopes to discuss what have been two particularly controversial issues in feminist thought – the biological and social status of motherhood and the relation of women as mothers to notions of ‘the community.’
The Mothering and the Community Panel:

Chair: Prof Nickie Charles, Director of the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender

Maureen Freely (The University of Warwick) - What About Us?: Thirteen Years Onmaureen.jpg

When second wave feminism crested in the late 1960s, its most ardent battlecry was that women had the right to shape their own destinies. No longer were we to be coerced into motherhood. We would give birth by choice and by choice only. But by the mid-1990s, it was fast becoming a choice that we could make only if we wished to bankrupt ourselves, ruin our career chances, or both. While this was largely down to the Tories and the think tanks that formed its policies, the feminist movement's deep ambivalence about motherhood had not helped, and neither had the media. Especially but not only in the tabloids, women who did not choose married stay-at-home motherhood were routinely castigated. In What About Us?: an open letter to the mothers feminism forgot, Maureen Freely argued for a new feminist engagement with motherhood and a new campaign for mothers' rights. That was in 1995. Thirteen years on, how much has changed? 

Heather Elliott (The Open University)- Mothering Environments: Impressions from a Study of First-time Motherhood
This paper draws on ongoing research, funded under the ESRC Identities and Social Action programme, which followed 19 women during their first year of motherhood in Tower Hamlets. The study has highlighted how place has shaped women’s experiences of motherhood, enabling some kinds of mothering and making others impossible. This paper explores the various ways sense of place and feelings of belonging shift with motherhood: in particular how birth and early motherhood are experienced as moments of throwntogetherness’.
Laura Griffith (Warwick Medical School) - Practitioners, Postnatal Depression, and Translation: an Investigation into the Representation of Bangladeshi Mothers in the East End

Through the investigation of the narratives of those who worked with Bangladeshi mothers in the East End this paper explores the role of culture as presented in both self-conscious and implicit terms. This analysis demonstrates that institutions are not neutral spaces but ones in which identities are produced. The research was conducted during 2003 and 2004.

As focal points this paper chooses health and motherhood as loci where personal experience, social institutions and notions of ‘culture’ all intersect. To stress only that the experience of motherhood is undeniably a feature of shared humanity would be to ignore the fact that reproduction is also culturally mediated and reconstructed.