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    My mother, my self: a psychosocial exploration of breastfeeding selfies in relation to the female imaginary, the mycelium and the matrixial

    Tugwell, Sharon Ann (2022) My mother, my self: a psychosocial exploration of breastfeeding selfies in relation to the female imaginary, the mycelium and the matrixial. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis takes the phenomenon of breastfeeding selfies, as both cultural object and discursive, relational practice, as its central object of inquiry. The phenomenon was popularised in the UK in 2015 as a result of the tension between the censorship of the social media platform Facebook, and the subsequent backlash by breastfeeding mothers. Thus, breastfeeding selfies can be understood as a disruption to the dichotomous relationship of the maternal and the sexual. Many of the contentions around the practice are directly correlated to the cultural ambivalence toward breastfeeding more generally, particularly breastfeeding in public. I take this contemporary example as an opportunity to rethink what might be at stake in theorising a specifically maternal erotics, and how the practice of breastfeeding selfies might function within this retheorisation. Drawing on the work of Luce Irigaray, I begin by examining the differing ways in which breastfeeding has been discursively constructed from antiquity to the present day. I expose that which has been covered over, demystifying the imaginary workings which have set the limits on the possibilities for breastfeeding to be given meaning, thus understood, at the level of culture. I suggest that notions of progress, development, and ‘newness’ can be read in relation to the parthenogenetic fantasies of the male imaginary, and that the digital age can be understood in relation to this trajectory. However, the digital offers a potential disruption to the linearity of what has gone before, as binaries become blurred and foundational sureties become destabilised. Breastfeeding selfies emerge in this context, and I take them as an opportunity to make an intervention into the current Symbolic. Utilising the work of Bracha Ettinger I read the significance of these objects and this practice in relation to the matrixial, as a way of expanding the current Symbolic through a reconfiguration of the maternal and the erotic.


    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: 17 Aug 2022 16:54
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:41


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