Feminism, Memory, and Care
There is a deep cultural anxiety around public expressions of maternalism and the application of maternal values to society as a whole. Julie Stephens examines why postmaternal thinking has become so influential in recent decades and why there has been a growing unease with maternal forms of subjectivity and maternalist perspectives. In moving beyond policy definitions, which emphasize the priority given to women's claims as employees over their political claims as mothers, Stephens details an elaborate process of cultural forgetting that has accompanied this repudiation of the maternal.
Reclaiming an alternative feminist position through an investigation of oral history, life narratives, Web blogs, and other rich and varied sources, Stephens confronts the core claims of postmaternal thought and challenges dominant representations of feminism as having forgotten motherhood. Deploying the interpretive framework of memory studies, she examines the political structures of forgetting surrounding the maternal and the weakening of nurture and care in the public domain. She views the promotion of an illusory, self-sufficient individualism as a form of social unmothering that is profoundly connected to this ethos. In rejecting both traditional maternalism and the new postmaternalism, Stephens challenges prevailing paradigms and makes way for an alternative feminist maternalism centering on a politics of care.
All revolutions, remarked the novelist Milan Kundera, involve a process of radical forgetting. It is the politics surrounding the cultural forgetting of ideals of the nurturing mother which are at the centre of Julie Stephens's book. Confronting Postmaternal Thinking shows the deeper sources of a new market-driven personal ethos reshaping motherhood via the lens of cultural memory. It offers a perceptive and revealing way of putting our current debates over mothering and feminism into perspective.
Anne Manne, author of Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children?
Stephens's challenging analysis of the contemporary context and ideologies repudiating the work of mothering today is exemplary. She is a fine writer and rigorous researcher, skillfully navigating the rising tensions between care and paid work, autonomy and connectedness, to produce a compelling case against the 'postmaternal thinking' undermining any social commitment to the ethics of care intrinsic to creating healthy societies. This book provides a fascinating reframing of one of the most critical issues of the moment.
Lynne Segal, author of Making Trouble: Life and Politics
2. Feminist Reminiscence
3. Memory and Modernity
4. Maternalism Reconfigured?
Conclusion: Toward a New Feminist Maternalism