Theorizing Motherhood In The Academy with Mother Studies
I am requesting permission to create an Individualized MALS degree that combines Digital Humanities with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The purpose of this combined major is to weave DH praxis (theory and practice) and feminist maternal perspectives into a thesis project that identifies “Mother Studies” as potential new area of inter-disciplinary coursework within the academy.
Digital Humanities is a relatively new field that is currently exploring its relevance, theory, and action. “Attempts to define the digital humanities represents a foray into contested terrain” (Matthew Gold, Digital Humanities), and yet DH has been successful in a) accessing funding, b) perpetuating a discussion of itself, c) offering classes at universities around the world. There is much to explore that could be useful in examining and developing “Mother Studies.” A few of those platforms are: interactive texts (such as the ones featured on the Commons), feminist archives, online exhibits, and projects like UCLA’s Hypercities; which could facilitate a mapping of history that includes aspects of HERstory (populations that have not been included in normative discussions of the recorded past. See also, Cold Spring Harbor Library: http://library.cshl.edu/honestjim).
If Digital Humanities offers a glimpse into theory and practice of “Mother Studies,” then the starting place for accessing content will be drawn from existing sources in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies literature, popular culture, and identity politics. These things shaped the feminist movement(s) of the sixties, seventies, and eighties and have continued to inform subsequent generations of procreators. GC’s own Barbara Katz Rothman has been writing about birth and motherhood since the 1980s. I suggest multiple perspectives can be added as theoretical and material resources expand to include a social, philosophical, psychological, economic, and global discussion as it pertains to m/otherhood, fatherhood, and family study.
An examination into “Mother Studies” is the logical symbolic daughter of the ever expanding, and microscoping feminist discourse. In 2011 Sage Publishing released The Encyclopedia of Motherhood. The three-volume work included feminist arts organizations, activist agencies, and academics spearheading new work about motherhood. At the same time here in New York City I began a three-year museum project on the Upper East Side. The Museum of Motherhood focused on exploring and exhibiting academic and artistic works about women, mothers, and families.
Intellectuals who believe this subject has merit have laid much groundwork. In conclusion, by combining Digital Humanities with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies I aim to construct my thesis project interactively. I will take an interdisciplinary approach to shaping the theory and practice of “Mother Studies” by a) pulling from existing sources, b) engaging the academic “collective,” c) establishing a framework with which to view the topic as a scholarly endeavor, b) utilizing DH theory and tools to enhance evaluation and discussion.
This proposal was approved in October, 2014 and I will be proceeding with my individualized studies track in the spring of 2015, with this thesis underway.