MT18 WiP Seminar: Mao Naka

Reinterpretation of Motherhood: Separating it from the act of giving birth

Internal WiP:  Assoc. Professor Mao Naka 

Date: Wednesday 21 November, 2.30 – 3.30pm

Venue: Oxford Martin School, Seminar Room 2

Title: Reinterpretation of Motherhood: Separating it from the act of giving birth

Abstract: The term “mother” often implies unconsciously not only the female parent but also the primary caregiver who forges the closest relationship with her children. There is an implicit connection between being a person who has given birth to a child and being the primary parent who shares the closest relationship with her children through her caring ways. This connection has formed the basis of the public perception of motherhood. 
In this paper, we will question the connection between being a person who has given birth and being the primary parent and reinterpret motherhood to include care-givers other than women who have given birth. First, we distinguish undesirable motherhood from positive motherhood as per Rich. Rich defines the former as “motherhood as an institution,” stating that it is imposed upon women by male-centered societies that have restricted women’s life choices, subjugating them to men’s control. Rejecting this kind of motherhood, we focus on the concept and perception of motherhood that is internally experienced by individuals. We separate giving birth from the concept of motherhood, and focus on redefining motherhood on the basis of the actual practice of mothering rather than on the basis of merely having given birth. We thus refer to the ideas of Chodorow and Ruddick. According to the latter, a “mother” is the person who is engaged in the act of mothering regardless of gender and whether she has actually given birth to the child. We will attempt to reinterpret motherhood as one’s way of being that is formed or re-formed through the process of mothering, which is founded on the relationship with children, employing the ways of thinking of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. We will emphasize that the reinterpreted meaning of motherhood encompasses those who have not given birth as well, including fathers and adoptive parents.

In this context, the following topics will be focused upon: adoption of newborns, male primary parents including those who have single custody, anonymous/confidential childbirth, and the system of baby-hatches.

Speaker: Assoc. Professor Mao Naka (Kobe University; OUC Academic Visitor)

Booking: not required

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