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    Maternal encounters: the ethics of interruption

    Baraitser, Lisa (2009) Maternal encounters: the ethics of interruption. Feminist Review 93 , pp. 138-139. ISSN 0141-7789.

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    Abstract

    Motherhood is a profound and distinctive experience. Those who have been through it try not to say too much, but wait for friends, daughters, sisters to ‘join the club’. New grandmothers talk about their daughters ‘coming into focus’ again. New mothers talk about a new more intense ‘being in the world’. Yet theoretical accounts of motherhood tell us strangely little about maternal experience. In fact the mother herself is elusive, abstracted and eclipsed by powerful conceptualisations of mother–baby, nature–culture and intersubjectivity. In Maternal Encounters, Lisa Baraitser seeks to provide a theoretical account of the maternal that centres the mother. She explains: Instead of borrowing from the mother metaphorically to help us to understand something of our relations to others … I want to return to the mother-child relationship itself to probe the complexity of a specifically maternal ethics as less to do with an unstinting commitment or caring attentiveness towards another, and more to do with the way that otherness is always at work, structuring, infecting and prompting human subjectivity. This implies understanding not only the ways that otherness figures in the developmental trajectory of the child, but also crucially in a mother's own developmental process too. This would go some way towards recuperating something for a mother out of her often bewildering encounter with a child, which could then be used to shore up the notion of a specifically maternal subjectivity.

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