I left academia because I worked myself silly, researched myself nearly into the ground. I slept for four hours per night. I was exhausted and not sure how our family would be able to sustain two academics.
But I didn’t leave academia because I didn’t like literary theory. I actually quite liked it. It was one of my focus areas for my M.A. exam.
Lately, while searching for places to submit my writing, I’ve stumbled upon some calls for papers in an area that wasn’t on my radar back when I was getting my Master’s in English: academic writing about mothering. And I’ve got to say, it’ s pretty interesting. But having gained eight years and two kids worth of perspective since I abandoned the proverbial ivory tower, the word play and jargon in this description made me laugh:
While much of Western thought has celebrated the splitting of women’s identity into “mother” or “other”—the perception that women cannot be both—re-thinking mothering from the perspective of “performativity” recognizes the relationality between mother and other. When mothering is conceived of as performative it becomes an active practice de-centering the notion that motherhood is passive and static. Performativity shifts our attention from motherhood as biological, selfless, and existing prior to culture, to a practice that is always incomplete, indeterminable, and vulnerable. A relational understanding of m/othering opens up the possibility of an ethical form of exchange between self and other and allows us to understand the maternal subject as engaged in a relational process which is never complete and which demands reiteration. M/othering as performance contains the potential for a disruption of dominant discourses on maternity and thereby makes room for maternal agency. This re-conceptualization of m/othering refuses to be split, while also remaining ambivalent.
Now that I’ve read it about four times, though—I’ve gotten slower with my advancing age and kid-riled brain—I’m starting to get pulled back in. Really, who can resist such a playful idea: the m/other. I might even submit something. Of course, there’s the little problem of my curriculum vitae. It isn’t exactly impressive. But hey, I’ve been busy. I’ve been engaged in a relational process which is never complete and which demands reiteration. Darn laundry.
1 month ago