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Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology 
University of Warsaw

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The missing maternal body in the narratives of young Catholic and Muslim mothers in Poland: recording of the seminar 

The last Cathorep Seminar was held on 8 Dec 2022. Our guest was dr Joanna Krotofil (Instytut Religioznawstwa UJ).

Useful information
Date of publication: 
Reccorded at: 
Seminarium Katorep
Lecturer's name: 
Joanna Krotofil

In the introduction to the edited volume “Philosophical Inquiries into Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering”, Lintott and Sander-Staudt note that the “hidden mother” – a widespread practice in 19th-century infant photography – is a fitting metaphor for many contemporary projects on motherhood and mothering, where the maternal subjectivity is downplayed. In this presentation we will argue that in Poland, where Catholicism remains the dominant religion, pregnancy and birth are highly medicalised (Oleś-Bińczyk; Mazurek) and feminists are reluctant to notice and engage with mothers (Graff), the embodied nature of the transition to motherhood is erased from public discourses and from the mother’s  own stories. The mother as an embodied subject is missing in public and private space. We will analyse the fragmentarily narrated or entirely missing bodily experiences of pregnancy, birth and postpartum in mothers’ stories revealing the power of religious and medical discourses and practices to produce silence. Looking closely at these silences and omissions, we will also trace the instances when women navigate religious and medical practices in a way that allows them to reclaim their missing maternal embodied subjectivity. We embed our discussion in the context of debates in feminist circles on the importance of a matricentric perspective.