1st Edition

Maternal Encounters The Ethics of Interruption

By Lisa Baraitser Copyright 2009
    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    Winner of the 2009 Feminist & Women's Studies Association (UK & Ireland) Book Award!

    Many women find mothering a shocking experience in terms of the extremity of feelings it provokes, and the profound changes it seems to prompt in identity, relationship and sense of self. However, although motherhood can catapult us into a state of internal disarray, it can also provide us with a unique chance to make ourselves anew. How then do we understand this radical potential for transformation within maternal experience? In Maternal Encounters, Lisa Baraitser takes up this question through the analysis of a series of maternal anecdotes, charting key destabilizing moments in the life of just one mother, and using these to discuss many questions that have remained resistant to theoretical analysis – the possibility for a specific feminine-maternal subjectivity, relationality and reciprocity, ethics and otherness.

    Working across contemporary philosophies of feminist ethics, as well as psychoanalysis and social theory, the maternal subject, in Baraitser’s account, becomes an emblematic and enigmatic formation of a subjectivity ‘called into being’ through a relation to another she comes to name and claim as her child. As she navigates through the peculiarity of maternal experience, Baraitser takes us on a journey in which ‘the mother’ emerges in the most unlikely, precarious and unstable of places as a subject of alterity, transformation, interruption, heightened sentience, viscosity, encumberment and love.

    This book presents a major new theory of maternal subjectivity, and an innovative and accessible way into our understanding of contemporary motherhood. As such, it will be of interest to students of family studies, gender studies, psychoanalysis, critical psychology and feminist philosophy as well as counselling and psychotherapy.

    Maternal Encounters. Maternal Alterity: Mum’s the Word. Maternal Transformations: Oi Mother, Keep Ye' Hair On! Maternal Interruptions: I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi, I Like You Very Much, Si, Si, Si, Si, Si, I Think You're Grand. Maternal Love: On Mother Love and Unexpected Weeping. Maternal Stuff: Maternity and the Encumbered Body. Intentions, Inconsistencies, Inconclusions.


    Lisa Baraitser is Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, a feminist theorist, writer and theatre director, and a psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with mothers. Her research is currently concerned with articulations of the maternal in the fields of psychoanalysis, social theory, feminism and philosophy.

    "A welcome addition to the Women and Psychology Series of books. ... It can be used to both teach and prompt discussions about motherhood across multiple disciplines." - Sue Child, University of Exeter, UK, in Sociology

    "Maternal Encounters is a bold and beautiful book. ... Baraitser is able, a generation later, to go much further than (Adrienne) Rich in staking a strong claim for the ethical and political importance of the maternal to wider understandings of the human condition ... Baraitser brilliantly employs maternal anecdote in her writing, beginning each chapter with a rich descriptive account of maternal experience, and then further interrupting the ‘academic’ text throughout the chapter with more anecdotes. ... Baraitser’s skill as a writer is dazzling, and it is, in part, this skill that enables her to produce what is one of the most affective and insightful phenomenological accounts of the maternal ever written. ... Despite its theoretical sophistication, this book manages to be incredibly lucid. It flows and is easy to follow and read. ... There are not many academic books that move their readers to tears, make them gasp in recognition or laugh out loud; I guarantee that Maternal Encounters will move you in profound ways." - Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University, UK, in Subjectivity

    "This is an extremely unusual, subtle and important book. Lisa Baraitser produces a demanding and timely theoretical argument that presents maternity as a site for the construction of subjectivity and for the development of a new understanding of the ethics of relationality. She draws together an array of contemporary feminist, philosophical and psychoanalytic theory, whilst maintaining an authorial voice that is intensely personal, lively, accessible, humorous and humane. Maternal Encounters is a remarkable achievement."Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, University of London

    "This is a beautifully written text, demonstrating considerable skill. Lisa Baraitser has produced a book that speaks of a scholar who is a highly original thinker, with a capacity to simultaneously craft an engaging story alongside the deft handling of complex theory." - Dr Gail Lewis, Reader in Identities and Psycho-Social Studies, Open University