MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

By

Annual Academic MOM Conference, NYC 2019: Rewriting Trauma

REWRITING TRAUMA & VISIBILITY

Motherwork, Pregnancy, and Birth

Manhattan College
Bronx, NY
APRIL 5-6 2019

Calling all sociologists, women’s, sexuality, and gender scholars, masculinity studies scholars, birth-workers, doctors, maternal psychologists, motherhood and fatherhood scholars, artists, performers: This conference call for papers focuses on uncovering, naming and rewriting traumas of motherwork, pregnancy and birth. We especially aim to make visible those topics related to (dis)abilities and other marginalized positionalities, relying on Patricia Hill Collins’ conceptualization of motherwork as mothering that is designed for the survival and success of the next generation in the context of oppression. We recognize traumas in multiple forms, originating before, during, and after pregnancy and birth and throughout motherhood, contextualized by the intersectional identities of those traumatized. We encourage presenters to unpack the sociocultural domain and the medicalized environment within which traumas often occur, embracing and analyzing meaning-making, as Barbara Katz Rothman and others would have us do, in the areas of maternal health and well-being.

We intend the conference to serve as a site of resistance as we reframe and reconstruct the landscape of embodied trauma within motherwork, pregnancy and birth and the ongoing labor of mothers and caregivers everywhere. We recognize the scale, variance, and duration of trauma and hope to support and empower those who most need it.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Intersectional identities as the context of motherwork, pregnancy and birth traumas

Motherwork, pregnancy and birthing with (dis-)abilities, illness, and children with special needs

Biomedical and cultural discourses of motherwork, pregnancy, and birth, including issues related to marginalized identities, fertility treatment, gender, and intersex identities
Normative constructions of gender in motherwork, pregnancy and birthing

Child and maternal psychology interventions, alternative therapies, and results

Breastfeeding ambivalences, obstacles, and outcomes

Future wombs, including transplants, artificial constructions, cloning, and surrogacy

Art as healing and activism as visible resistance
Embodied resistance to socially constructed proscriptions and conventions about motherwork, pregnancy, and birth, especially as contextualized within marginalized positionalities

Narratives surrounding:

  • High-risk pregnancies, pregnancy-related illnesses, and birthing complications
  • Cesarean Section, Episiotomy and other Obstetric Violence
  • Stillbirths or Therapeutic Terminations
  • Pregnancy loss, Alternative Therapies, and Healing

Individuals conducting research, making art, working in hospital or alternative birth settings, and presentations by mothers, family members, and students as well as auto-ethnographic perspectives are welcome

All submissions for this conference should be considered for submission to the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), an academic, peer-reviewed journal devoted to Mother Studies. You may also submit for the conference only if you wish. Abstracts must include a title and 50-150 words for individual papers, panels, and other submission types (e.g. performance, media, music). Go to MOMmuseum.org and look for the “Conference Submissions” tab or submit a word doc. to info@MOMmuseum.org by Dec. 1

The international MOM Conference is an annual event that features research, scholarship, and creative collaboration in the area of Mother Studies. Each year, the academic committee organizes university experiences that are interdisciplinary and highlight scholarship in the area of reproductive justice, maternal health, feminist theory, gender studies, literature, and the arts. The conference is organized through the Museum Of Motherhood (M.O.M.) and has partnered with multiple institutions throughout the years (2005-present), including Manhattan College, USF Tampa, Marymount Manhattan College, Columbia, ProCreate Project, Mamapalooza, and ARM now renamed MIRCI to name a few.

By

History, Foundling Wheels, and Experiments in Public Health

During the years that M.O.M operated out of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, posters adorned each of the 2,500 square space’s pillars. These posters focused on quirky and sometimes tragic facts spanning ten centuries of childbirth. One of the most curious posters, and the one that most often elicited conversation from students was the photo and description of the foundling wheel of The Ospedale degli Innocenti in Italy.

Interior courtyard of Ospedale degli Innocenti

This hospital, cum orphanage, history tells us, was an experiment in social welfare and public health fifteenth century-style.

Completed in 1445, the institution received its first abandoned infant ten days later. What the text books tell us differs a great deal from what research anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discovered and wrote in her provocative book Mother Nature. While I am not at my desk as I write this blog (travels continue to take me through Italy and the surrounding regions), my memory of her book and scholar Jocelyn Fenton Stitt’s 2014 online MSU course on Motherhood Studies stands out. Challenging romanticized notions of caring mothers fawning over their newborns, the foundling hospital tells a different story.

Artifacts left behind along with abandoned newborns were catalogued & curated

Of all the places on our scheduled visit through Italy this summer, this was the destination I was most excited about. According to Hrdy, hundreds of thousands of abandoned newborns died behind these walls, victims of illness, starvation, and a vast population of women, who through circumstance for a great number of reasons were unable to care for their infants. Challenging the assumption that all mothers can or will care for their babies, most of these children born illigitimately, during times of social unrest, during plagues, amidst starvation, and for so many other complex and wide-ranging reasons, were abandoned in the middle of the night and left to fate.

The hospital was envisioned as a charitable institution six hundred years ago and continues to operate as a museum and advocate for youth through various programs. The museum today tells the story of its abandoned children through artifacts left along with the newborns who had to be tiny enough to squeeze through the grated entrance, pictured below.

The author, M. Joy Rose pictured in front of the foundling wheel gate

Once abandoned, a bell would ring, awakening attendants who would then feed and care for the children. For many reasons, Hrdy tells us, the vast majority of these stories end in death. There simply was no baby formula available (it wasn’t invented until the middle 1800s), and there were not enough wet nurses to go around.
The notion of abandoning a newborn, while repugnant to most, is actually evidence for the ongoing argument that women need to be able to choose when and if they will get pregnant and give birth. Baby boxes and other legitimate contemporary options continue to be available to mothers unwilling or unable to care for their newborns in the U.S. and around the world. The Ospedale degli Innocenti stands as testimate to the social history and personal stories of countless children and their families.

Wet nurses hired to feed and care for the babies

Join me by checking in at my personal blog as I spend the next several weeks traveling Europe ~ MOM Founder, Director, M. Joy Rose