Coming to Life: Philosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering is a superlative collection of essays that does what too few scholarly works have dared: it takes seriously the philosophical significance of women’s lived experience. Every woman, regardless of her own reproductive story, is touched by the often restrictive beliefs and norms governing discourses about pregnancy, childbirth and mothering. Thus the concerns of this anthology are relevant to all women and central to any philosophical project that takes women’s lives seriously. In this volume 16 authors- including both established feminists and some of today’s most innovative new scholars- engage in sustained reflection on the experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and mothering, and on the beliefs, customs, and political institutions by which those experiences are informed. Many of the topics in this collection, though familiar, are here taken up in a new way: contributors think beyond the traditional pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy, speak to the manifold nature of mothering by considering the experiences of adoptive mothers and birthmothers, and upend the belief that childrearing practices must be uniform despite psycho-sexual differences in children. Many chapters reveal the radical shortcomings of conventional philosophical wisdom by placing trenchant assumptions about subjectivity, gender, power and virtue in dialogue with women’s experience. The volume is diverse both in its content and in its scholarly approach; certain of the essays are informed by their authors’ own experiences, others draw from extant narratives; many engage such canonical thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger, while others draw from the works of contemporary feminists including Sara Ruddick, Iris Marion Young, Virginia Held, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. All readers, regardless of their philosophical training and commitments, will find much to appreciate in this volume.
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Sarah LaChance Adams is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Superior. She has published several articles and chapters on pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering and is the author of a forthcoming book on maternal ambivalence and ethics.Review:
“This book produces what is for the most part little-known material, the result of recent research, and also contributes a new understanding of some familiar phenomenological material.” (―Amy Mullin University of Toronto Mississauga)
Recent years have shown a renewed scholarly interest in motherhood and pregnancy, and Coming to Life: Philosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood is an important addition to the literature. Sarah LaChance Adams and Caroline R. Lundquist’s anthology is both firmly rooted in philosophical theory and accessible to the non-specialist, a rare combination. In bringing their own experiences as mothers to bear on canonical accounts of personhood and moral theory, contributors to the volume extend the second-wave project of identifying gendered and sexist frameworks underlying seemingly gender-neutral philosophies. New to the literature is Coming to Life’s extensive, critical attention to phenomenology, an area of philosophy often seen, incorrectly, as motherhood and pregnancy-friendly. In addition, Dorothy Roger’s essay on women who experience pregnancy and/or childbirth, but not motherhood, brings attention to an all too often unrecognized, and certainly under-theorized, phenomenon of women’s experience―miscarriage and the giving up of a child for adoption. (―Maeve O'Donovan Notre Dame of Maryland University)
This consistently rigorous and original collection is a joy to read. From the most metaphorical and metaphysical claims about the pregnant subject to the most practical political arguments about the day-to-day of mothering, these essays draw us in with their careful and passionate scholarship. LaChance Adams and Lundquist have provided not only a primer for those trying to understand what is philosophical in pregnancy, birth, and mothering, but show that thinking about these topics should change the way everyone philosophizes. The discipline--and the canon--look different after Coming To Life. (―Cressida Heyes University of Alberta, Edmonton)
Very little philosophical attention―and certainly little positive attention―has been paid to women’s experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and mothering. Critically focusing on those experiences, this groundbreaking collection explores how pregnancy and childbirth have been portrayed in the philosophical canon; the variety of forms that mothering and motherhood can take; how feminist phenomenology can illuminate the experiences of pregnancy, birth, and miscarriage; ethical and political questions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth; and how pregnancy and mothering are viewed by mainstream media and popular culture. This book is a must-read for feminists and philosophers of all stripes. (―Shannon Sullivan Pennsylvania State University)
The volume contributors, all female philosophy scholars, remedy [a] gap in the literature by approaching questions about reproductive rights, the status of the fetus, and the medicalization of childbirth. (―Choice)
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