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EL Putnam presents "Strange Mothers" at the Thinking Gender Justice Conference

  • Centre for Gender, Feminisms & Sexualities Sutherland Building, University College Dublin Belfield, Dublin 4 Ireland (map)

Emerging feminisms and gender studies have over the last decade and more placed an increased emphasis on an understanding of social relationships, power structures and social change through the intersections of race, class, gender and sexualities. The core question now is how can feminism and gender studies continue to offer critical insights and understandings in the context of the rise of the right, new nationalisms and the growing ethnic, class, gender and religious conflicts, within and between nations-States? And how can gender studies and feminism contribute to current discourses on power (both historical and current), strategies of resistance and formations of solidarity? What kind of space do identity politics and intersectionality occupy in political action? Who gets to frame the language and the scope of debate within feminism, gender and queer studies? How are southern theories and decolonial praxis changing the academy? How does representation in popular culture, media, digital culture, literature and other forms of cultural practice and production promote or challenge forms of gender justice and injustice? What can we learn for the present and future from subjugated histories, including the histories of women’s struggles and histories of conflict and subordination between women? The aim of this conference is to reflect on these and related questions from a range of disciplinary and multidisciplinary fields, and from the perspective of those active and committed to creating the conditions for change in Ireland and globally.

"Thinking Gender Justice" is the First Annual Conference of the Centre for Gender, Feminism and Sexualities (CGFS), University College Dublin which brings together activists, artists and academics, and draws on transdisciplinary perspectives in feminism and gender studies.

EL Putnam will be presenting the paper "Strange Mothers: Towards a Digital Aesthetic of Interruption" and an untitled performance video as part of the Maternal Subjectivities Panel, along with Kate Antosik-Parsons (University College Dublin), Liz Quirke (National University of Ireland Galway), and Noirin MacNamara (Queen's University Belfast) on Wednesday 23 May, 9:15 am.

Paper Abstract:

Bringing together philosophies of the maternal with digital technology may initially  appear as an arbitrary pairing, though reading them intertextually through select artistic works and practices reveals how both encompass an aesthetics of interruption. Lisa Baraitser describes the maternal subject as one of interruption, where interruptions are not considered aberrations, but form the grounding of the maternal subject. Instead of treating these interruptions, and their affiliated challenges, as negative, Baraitser notes how they allow the mother to become re-attuned to ways of being in the world, making the maternal subject as one that is always becoming. In this paper, I investigate how certain artists (including Laura O'Connor and myself) use digital media as a means of rupturing existing representations of the maternal, creating artworks that take advantage of formal properties of digital media in order to interrupt visual and aural constructions by means of an intentional, immanent merging of the performing body with digital technology. Drawing from Maurizio Lazzarato’s critique of the performative, I argue that by placing emphasis on the maternal subject as one of interruption provides insight into alternative groundings for digital subjectivity through a shared aesthetics of interruption. Moreover, the maternal enunciations emerging from the discussed examples can be treated as models for disruptive forms of subjectivity that defy current modes of assimilation. Motherhood, and related subjectivities, are not just rendered strange, but provide a means of cultivating steadfast positions in the uncanniness of digitally mediated existence.

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