I have been planning to go this seminar series on Feminism and Futurity in Bristol for a while, but could only make it to this one, on material feminisms. This was one of the ones that looked more promising to me, as it combined exciting (for me!) theoretical approaches I have used for my PhD, vibrant materialities and actor-network theory, and this new area of work I want to move into: feminist theory, to focus on feminist mothering.
So all the complicated practicalities were planned, requesting babysitting services from grandparents, driving three hours to their house the day before, the next day leaving early to catch a train to Bristol for an hour and a half to get there; the same thing back. But it was worth it. It has been a long time of reclusion during the final intense stages of the PhD, where I hardly slept, nor did much else than PhD and be with my little one. There was not space, or more accurately time, for much else. So this was exciting.
Three really interesting talks, and loads of discussion and getting to know people whose work is really related to what I want to do next (yeah, I can do somehting different now!!).
The first one was by Felicity Callard, on new neurosciences studies on the ‘resting state’, which she explained in a clear way (thank god for that!), and talked about some of the repercussions of this work, in terms of re-conceptualisations of the self, but that could also be used to reinforce, for instance, existing gender stereotypes.
Kate Boyer’s talk was on a subject close to my heart, breastfeeding in public. Her talk used cultural and feminist geographical approaches to understand how breastfeeding in public is in practice constructed as ‘out of place’ in different ways, from social disapproval in many guises, to the constructions of lactation rooms. Her talk really resonated with my experience, and also with my desire to do some research on this area, the politics of breastfeeding.
Finally Maria Fannin’s talk on economies of the placenta, opened up the complexities of the materiality of the placenta in terms of its role, its properties, what is does, and who does it belong to, which opened my eyes to the different trajectories of placenta (from cosmetic uses, research, medicine, home freezers, burials under trees to breakfast!), and the different politics that its complex materiality brings.
For me, these different talks showed how interesting it is to bring in the materialities of things, of bodies, materials, objects, organs, as these inevitably relate, affect and generate different politics, economies, conceptions of self, which have performative effects on gender relations. But was great was that it turned out to be a space that generated conversations that were open to explore these issues, and where I got to meet very interesting women. And in this doom and gloom times, it reminded me of what I like most about academia.
There is a last seminar in June, which promises to be good too. Will love to be able to make it.