Workshop 4: Rhetorics of Motherhood
Jennifer Borda and Sara Hayden
To mother is to engage in a practice and to assume an identity that, across the globe, most women have shared or will share. Yet mothering, like all human endeavors, is not simply a natural process; instead, it is shaped by, and in turn shapes, the social institutions and cultural contexts within which it takes place. Over the past few decades, rhetorical critics and theorists have joined an interdisciplinary group of motherhood studies scholars who are exploring questions about the social, cultural, economic, and political implications of mothering. This workshop is designed to investigate the specific ways that rhetorical scholars have contributed to this larger body of work and to consider further avenues for continued engagement.
The workshop will focus on two interrelated yet distinct lines of inquiry: First, how does public discourse about mothers shape expectations of motherhood as an identity and practice, evaluation and judgment of women’s mothering, and the actual experiences and potential of mothering practices, whether conforming or in resistance to such culturally and politically constructed views? Second, how have women (some of whom are mothers, some of whom are not) appealed to motherhood to effect change in the public sphere, and in turn, how have those practices (from maternal rhetorical strategies to maternal activism and resistance) affected understandings of motherhood? Participants will be asked to complete a set of readings prior to the workshop and come prepared to share their own work-in-progress. We will also discuss how we can incorporate motherhood scholarship into our courses.