CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Extended deadline: (Un)conventional Parenthood

full name / name of organization: 
Centre for gender and diversity

Points of Exit:
(Un)conventional Parenthood: Unromantic Representations of Motherhood and
Fatherhood in Contemporary Western Societies
Extended deadline!

On Thursday, March 19, and Friday, March 20, 2009, the Centre for Gender
and Diversity, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, will mark its ten-
year anniversary with a conference entitled Points of Exit: (Un)
conventional Representations of Age, Parenting, and Sexuality. The
conference aims to examine the potential deconstruction of conventional
scripts of age, parenting, and sexuality.

For one of the panels, entitled (Un)conventional Parenthood: Unromantic
Representations of Motherhood and Fatherhood in Contemporary Western
Societies, we invite papers that focus on cultural representations of
problematic aspects of white, middle class motherhood and fatherhood in
contemporary, Western societies.

The starting point of this panel is the observation that parenthood has -
in several Western countries - been frequently represented as a
pleasurable and individually satisfactory experience since the 1980s.
This is especially the case in relation to motherhood, although the ideal
is also on the rise for fathers. Moreover, the ideal of enjoyment is a
white, middle-class norm, which is particularly articulated in relation
to babies and toddlers. In her analysis of representations of the white
middle-class family in for instance English films and advertisements,
Deborah Chambers (Representing the Family, 2001) shows that children have
been represented as objects of personal pleasure in recent decades. In
The Mommy Myth (2004) Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels confirm that
the ideal of enjoyment is normative when it comes to motherhood in the
United States these days. Judging from Dutch material, this is also the
case in The Netherlands. Since the late 1970s, educational advice has
highlighted the enjoyment of children as an ideal for parents, as Janneke
Wubs has shown (Luisteren naar deskundigen, 2004, p. 211, p. 216).
Although this normative discourse of enjoyment is widespread, ‘darker’
aspects of parenthood are also expressed abundantly, ranging for instance
from gloomy novels about mothers and fathers who kill their children,
advertisements for treatments of postnatal depression, discussions about
the problematic combination of work and care, to comedy series and movies
about dysfunctional families. This contrast gives rise to an interesting
field of tension and begs the question hów such darker sides of bearing
and having children are represented in relation to the more idealized
representations of motherhood and fatherhood. Are these representations
points of exit or do they perhaps reproduce romanticized notions of
parenthood ex negativo?

Contributors to this session are invited to focus on this question and to
perform an analysis of one or several case studies in which parenthood is
represented in problematic terms. Topics can range from representations
of parenthood in literary fiction, poetry, visual art, film to TV-shows,
magazines, policies etc. Contributions in which both representations of
fatherhood ánd motherhood are taken into account, as well as their
relationship to each other, are highly appreciated.

Confirmed keynote speaker for the panel is Deborah Chambers. She is
Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University. Her
research in the sociology of culture and media focuses on gender,
identities, the family and cultural theory. Representing the Family
(2001) examines official, media, and domestic discourses of family
values. Women & Journalism (2004 with Steiner and Fleming) provides a
comparative analysis of women in journalism in USA and Britain. New
Social Ties (2006) explores contemporary debates in social and cultural
theory concerning the impact of new communication technologies on social
networks. Deborah is currently writing a book on the Sociology of
Families (Polity).

Send in a 500-word abstract and a short bio to
(subject heading: “Unconventional Parenthood”) before December 1, 2008.

We aim at publishing a selection of conference papers in a special issue
of a peer-reviewed journal.

For further information on the Points of Exit conference, see:

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Received on Wed Nov 12 2008 - 08:57:46 EST