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    Thinking the maternal collectively: a feminist critique of equality, individualism and universalism

    Paiola, Sara (2021) Thinking the maternal collectively: a feminist critique of equality, individualism and universalism. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis is an attempt to conceptualise motherhood in a collective, relational way and to examine whether a relational model of motherhood can be transformative for a mother’s sense of self–her subjectivity. I attempt the broader social and philosophical work of placing the mother and the work of reproduction within the realm of the concrete and the real, not of the metaphor. I suggest that a model of relational motherhood grounded in 1970s and 1980s Italian and French sexual difference feminism offers us an alternative way to talk about ‘community’ and maternal subjectivity in order to challenge and ward off the isolation many new mothers and carers experience. Centering primarily on the work of those authors who have engaged with a relational ontology framework as their core sustained interest, I focus on the alliance between Luce Irigaray and Italian sexual difference feminism, in particular the work by feminist political philosopher Adriana Cavarero and the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective. I suggest this work offers a radical example of a critique of equality, individualism and universalism as a solution for women’s freedom. I draw on a variety of materials and approaches to support my argument throughout the thesis (including a case study of a mothers’ collective, Il Collettivo Madri, set up by a group of mothers in Rome, Italy, in the early 1970s, and my collaboration with artists to use coloured thread to explore carers’ relationality). I engage with feminist psychoanalysts’ and psychotherapists’ readings of maternal subjectivity. The concept and practice of relationality links these approaches and engagements, which illustrate the potential of a relational model of motherhood to disrupt law’s patriarchal hegemonic default position. Ultimately, I attend to the politics that I argue is inherent in relationality between women who are mothers, and I suggest that mothers’ subjectivity has the potential to be transformed by disengaging it from the individualistic view of the subject prevailing in liberal discourses and that motherhood needs to ‘rescued’ from the a-political position in which it is often still placed.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2021 13:52
    Last Modified: 06 Oct 2021 13:52


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