HomeMother Figures and Representations of Motherhood, Contemporary Perspectives

Mother Figures and Representations of Motherhood, Contemporary Perspectives

Représentations et figures de la maternité aujourd'hui

*  *  *

Published on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 by João Fernandes


This conference aims to question the various ways in which motherhood is judged, how political choices are translated into cultural representations of mothers as either icons or scapegoats, and how these representations are received and challenged in a quest for either conformity or agency.



Alternately celebrated and pilloried, mother figures have been assigned contradictory roles throughout the histories of English-speaking societies. Reflecting the power structures and conflicts of their times, they have been portrayed as pillars of society, providing material and emotional security, and models of sacrifice, or vilified for failing to perpetuate the expected values of individual responsibility and self-control. Nearly a century after winning political emancipation and almost half a century after the historic struggles for sexual emancipation—which yielded unequal results from one country to another—, women in all segments of society in the USA, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are still regarded as second-class citizens, particularly when viewed and politicised through the lens of motherhood and mothering. While social change has gradually progressed since early conflicts for emancipation, improvement has been opposed by an increasingly stigmatising rhetoric targeting the most vulnerable women — teenage mothers, lone mothers, surrogate mothers, disabled mothers, older mothers, adoptive mothers, migrant ormothers identified in racial terms, women raising their families in urban or rural poverty, mothers with AIDS, lesbian or transsexual mothers, sex workers, inmates with children or mothers whose children are in foster care: each of these figures of ‘inadequate,’ ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘undeserving’ motherhood is held responsible for her situation. Access to sex education, information on reproductive rights or structures to address her specific needs are increasingly restricted and conditional. Traditionally extolled as an accomplishment in a woman’s life, motherhood is nonetheless equated with a loss of status or personhood for women when the state or other legal persons endowed with ethical legitimacy can claim a right to interfere with their access to sex education, reproductive rights, family benefits, day-care or parenting choices.

This conference aims to question the various ways in which motherhood is judged, how political choices are translated into cultural representations of mothers as either icons or scapegoats, and how these representations are received and challenged in a quest for either conformity or agency.


Maison des sciences de l’homme, 33 Allée Ferdinand de Lesseps, 37200 Tours

Salle polyvalente au rez-de-chaussée

Monday 3 April 2017

8:30 – 8:50 Arrival of delegates and complimentary coffee/ tea

8:50 – 9:15 Welcome address by Professor and Head of ICD research group Mónica Zapata and Dr Alexis Chommeloux, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities

Chairs: Professor Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq and Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

9:15 – 10:00 Professor Martine Sagaert (Université de Toulon, Keynote speaker) « Procréation et création, de Simone de Beauvoir à Marie Darrieussecq »

Representations of Motherhood / Représentations des figures maternelles

  • 10:00 – 10:20 Ms Ilana Larkin (PhD Candidate, Northwestern, USA) “The Emotional Life of Food: Mothering, Eating, and National Identity”
  • 10:20 – 10:40 Dr Anne-Lise Marin-Lamellet (Université de Saint-Etienne) “The Mother and the Whore: Working-Class Motherhood in British Cinema (1956-2016)”
  • 10:40 – 11:00 Ms Kira Hussing (PhD Candidate, University of Maynooth, Ireland) “Maternal Conflict in Contemporary Irish Film”
  • 11:00 – 11:20 Ms Emma Heishman (PhD Candidate, Université Aix-Marseille 1) “Motherlove was a killer”: Representations of Black Motherhood in the Media’’

11:20 – 11:45 Questions and answers (Qs &As)

11:45 – 13:30 Buffet lunch (room 147, 1st floor)

Chair: Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

  • 13:30 – 13:50 Dr Anne Sweet-Fédé (Ponts et Chaussées) “When an “Action Chick” Gets Knocked Up: Pregnancy, Motherhood and Televised Action Heroines”
  • 13:50 – 14:10 Dr Charles Joseph (Université Rennes 2) “Super-Moms: Mothers and Motherhood in American Comic Book Culture”
  • 14:10 – 14:30 Professor Laurie Edson (San Diego, USA) “Postcolonial Economics and Motherhood from Emecheta to Adichie”
  • 14:30 – 14:50 Professor Mónica Zapata (Université Tours) « De mère en fille. À propos de La maison aux esprits et Les épices de la passion »

14:50 – 15:10 Qs & As

15:10 – 15:30 Coffee break

Mothers’ Unseen Economic and Cultural Transmission / Des agents économiques et culturels discrètes

Chair: Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

  • 15:30 – 15:50 Dr Coralie Raffenne (Université Dauphine, Paris) ‘‘Feminist economics and the deconstruction of mothers’ soluble self’’
  • 15:50 – 16:10 Ms Kasia Choluj (PhD Candidate, University of Kent, UK) “Reinventing Mother Pole /Matka Polka/ through home-making and parenting practices in the new Polish diaspora in Britain”
  • 16:10 – 16:30 Ms Toni McCallum (PhD Candidate, University of Newcastle, Australia) “Intersectionality in race, class and gender: Co-mothering in Logan, Queensland, Australia as a discourse of difference”

16:30 – 16:45 Qs & As

16:45 – 17:15 Coffee break

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Maison des sciences de l’homme, 33 Allée Ferdinand de Lesseps, 37200 Tours

 Salle polyvalente au rez-de-chaussée

8:30 – 9:00 complimentary coffee/ tea

Biopolitics/Biosocial: Rethinking Motherhood / Quand la biopolitique façonne la maternité

Chairs: Professors Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq and Georges-Claude Guilbert

  • 9:00 – 9:45 Professor Rosalind Edwards (University of Southampton, UK) & Professor Val Gillies (University of Westminster, UK) (Keynote speakers) “(M)othering and the politics of early intervention: biologisation and the reproduction of gendered, classed and raced inequalities”
  • 9:45 – 10:05 Ms Cigala Peirano (Master degree, Université Paris 8/UFSC Brazil)  « Médicalisation de la maternité au début du XXe siècle : une comparaison Chili-Brésil »
  • 10:05 – 10:25 Ms Annick Vallières (PhD Candidate, UdeM, Canada) « Au-delà des recommandations des autorités de santé publique : la diversité des aspirations d’allaitement des mères »

10:25 – 10:40 Qs & As

10:40 – 11:00 Coffee break

Unsettling Mother Figures and Unsettling Rhetoric / Des mères et des discours dérangeants

  • 11:00 – 11:20 Dr Rachel Jarvie (University of Exeter, UK) ‘'Renewed' 'older' motherhood/mothering: A qualitative exploration’’
  • 11:20 – 11:40 Ms Sarah Bekaert (PhD Candidate, City University, UK) “‘Why do I always become pregnant when I’m on the pill?’ Legitimising narratives – how contemporary expectations for teen-age silence teen mothers’ desire for motherhood”
  • 11:40 – 12:00 Ms Joelle Bradly (UK activist) “Alternative narratives of Teenage Motherhood” (UK)
  • 12:00 – 12:20 Dr Katherine Albertson (et al.) (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) “Mother figures behind bars: Pregnant women and mothers in English prisons”

12:20 – 12:40 Qs & As

12:40 – 14:00 Buffet lunch

 Salle 11 Département Aménagement, École Polytechnique,

 35 allée Ferdinand de Lesseps 37200 Tours (en face de la MSH)

Rights and Issues/ Rights and Ethics

Questions de droits

Chairs: Professor Mónica Zapata and Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

  • 14:00 – 14:20 Dr Eva-Sabine Zehelein (Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany) “ ‘Her Uterus, My Baby’: Gestational Surrogacy and Reconceptualizations of Motherhood”
  • 14:20 – 14:40 Dr Florence Binard (Université Paris 7) “Lesbian Motherhood: From the Social Recognition of Female Homosexuality to the ‘Lesby-boom’: A Comparison Between Britain and France”
  • 14:40 - 15:00 Dr Anthony Castet (Université Tours) ‘‘Lesbian Mothers and Citizens: the Morality Test at the US Supreme Court’’
  • 15:00 - 15:20 Dr Sophie Large (Université Tours) « Les mères atypiques de Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro : Monstres ou victimes ? »

15:20 – 15:40 Qs & As

15:40 – 16:00 Coffee break

17:00 Visit of the city of Tours (2 h)

19:30 – 22:00 Evening meal in the city

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Maison des sciences de l’homme, 33 Allée Ferdinand de Lesseps, 37200 Tours

Salle polyvalente au rez-de-chaussée

9:00 – 9:20 Complimentary coffee/ tea

Chairs: Professor Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq and Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

Religious Traditions and Constructions of Motherhood/Maternity / Les mères entre traditions religieuses et constructions sociales

  • 9:20 – 9:40 Dr Pam Lowe & Dr Sarah Jane Page (Aston University, UK) “‘On the Wet Side of the Womb’: The construction of mothers and motherhood in anti-abortion activism in England and Wales”
  • 9:40 – 10:00 Professor Philippe Brillet (Université Tours) ‘‘That motherhood fails to be adequately supported by the state exemplifies the lack of social services - and benefits - in the Republic of Ireland.’’
  • 10:00 – 10:20 Dr Patricia Mauclair (Université Tours) « Représentations de la maternité dans les albums jeunesse espagnols contemporains »
  • 10:20 – 10:40Dr Elisabeth Bouzonviller (Université Saint-Etienne) “Female ‘Transformational Energy’ in Louise Erdrich's works”

10:40 – 11:00 Qs & As

11:00 Closure of the conference and coffee break


Professor Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq Dr Cécile Coquet-Mokoko (University François Rabelais, Tours). ICD (EA 6297)

Useful information

To get to the venue: Take tram A line Lycée Jean Monet. Alight at Heure Tranquille station. Then walk back for about 50 metres and you will arrive at the venue located at 33 allée Ferdinand de Lesseps.

To contact the organisers please dial 0033 642 477 390 (Fabienne) and/or (Cécile) 0033 663 016 078.


  • salle polyvalente, rez-de-chaussée, Université François Rabelais, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, - 33 Allée Ferdinand de Lesseps
    Tours, France (37)


  • Monday, April 03, 2017
  • Tuesday, April 04, 2017
  • Wednesday, April 05, 2017


  • mother, motherhood, representations, contemporary societies


  • Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq
    courriel : fabienne [dot] portier-lecocq [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

Information source

  • Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq
    courriel : fabienne [dot] portier-lecocq [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Mother Figures and Representations of Motherhood, Contemporary Perspectives », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, https://calenda.org/399269

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal