The Theorist’s Mother


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A Polish lawyer appointed by Bates has taken statements from witnesses in Poland, including Duval, and members of the emergency services. But she said she did not expect them to attend the inquest, despite repeated invitations. Because I believe there is. The inquest, at the Guildhall in Sandwich, Kent, is expected to last four days.

Topics UK news. Poland news.

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In chapter 3, Parker brings Freud and Marx together around the theme of translation. Both thinkers aim to translate symptoms dreams, parapraxes, phobias; cultural forms, political struggles into underlying realities repressed forces, contradictions in society's economic base. Translation makes another important appearance in Marx's work when he claims in The Eighteenth Brumaire that revolutionaries must forget the old traditions that "weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living" Marx , For Marx, the revolutionary must forget tradition like someone forgetting his mother tongue Muttersprache , who only truly learns a new language when he stops translating back into his native tongue.

Indeed, Parker shows, Marx renounced his mother's tongue--Yiddish--in favor of his father's German.

However, Parker wants to complicate the assumption that people's mother tongue is the language they really learn, in early infancy, from their empirical mothers. Parker proposes instead following Derrida that the expression "mother tongue" can shed new, unfamiliar light on what mother means. Parker elaborates by looking at an anecdote of Freud's in which a Baroness is giving birth and progressively sheds her layers of genteel artifice as her cries become reduced to Aa-ee, aa-ee : bare expressions of her real, animal nature.

Yet in Freud's original German, her cries are actually reduced to Yiddish: " Ai, waih, waih " The ultimate underlying reality is not bare animal life, but language: specifically "the Mameloshn , the everyday language of eastern European Jewish men and women" , connoting the everyday maternal warmth of the Jewish family--unlike Hebrew, reserved for men.

The Theorist's Mother by Andrew Parker - 9780822352327 Book

Parker's point, then, seems to be that what we imagine to be the bedrock, biological reality of the mother is always-already a matter of language; what we imagine to be bare empirical perceptions of the mother are always-already culturally mediated. Thus, when Parker concludes this chapter by hoping for a kind of revolution that does not require forgetting the Mameloshn , he presumably in part means a revolution that does not seek to escape from language to pure truth but that remembers the all-mediating nature of language.

In chapters 2 and 3, then, Parker recovers the presence of the maternal in Freud and Marx in the sense of language that cannot be eliminated in favor of pure truth, bare facts, or unmediated perceptions. In chapter 1, though, the sense of the maternal that Parker rediscovered in Lacan was that of direct, body-to-body relationships that exceed theoretical comprehension. These are two very different senses of the maternal.

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But then a central argument of Parker's introduction to this book is that the maternal has manifold meanings. In the introduction, which outlines the book's overall framework, Parker reflects on the general trouble that philosophy has had with maternity: the discipline's reluctance to include mothers either as subjects or objects of philosophical inquiry. Parker also uses the introduction to put forward his positive thesis that maternity "resists univocal meaning" 11 since it covers pregnancy, childbearing, mothering, child-care, and a whole range of associated practices, identities, and contexts.

New reproductive technologies and practices such as surrogate motherhood have exposed this multiplicity within maternity, but for Parker that multiplicity was always, inherently, there.

The Theorist's Mother by Andrew Parker - Book | Fruugo

To be a mother, Parker concludes, is "structurally--ineluctably--to be more than one" Moreover, Parker says, we can never simply perceive who is a mother: for instance, even if we see someone giving birth, that person is not necessarily the legal mother of the baby she is bearing. Parker's general point, I take it, is that childbearing and childrearing can come apart, as can other elements often lumped together under "motherhood," such as childrearing and enjoying legal status as a child's mother.

Even when in fact one single woman bears a child, looks after that child, and is its legal guardian, in principle a multiplicity of elements is involved. However, certain conclusions that Parker draws from this are for me the most debatable part of his book. Parker disagrees with feminist philosophers or theorists who criticize the appropriation or usurpation of maternal powers by those who they take it are not really mothers.

In particular, some feminists have criticized male philosophers--for example, Nietzsche, Plato--who have appropriated the language of birth and pregnancy to describe their own activity in producing ideas or works. Parker suggests in his short conclusion that these feminists are hostile to metaphor.

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Moreover, he adds, "in any case it is no longer technically true that men cannot give birth" : he refers to Thomas Beatie, one of a small number of FTM transsexuals who have become pregnant and had babies. Parker also endorses Sara Ruddick's suggestion that men can engage in maternal thinking and mothering if they undertake the practical work of nurturing children. He ends his introduction: "What will become of Theory when we cannot presume its mother's gender?

Parker makes these points about male motherhood quickly and playfully, but for me he loses sight of the central reason why feminists have objected to the "appropriation" of maternal powers by male philosophers--namely, because it takes place within a broader line of thought that excludes women from philosophy. On this view, women can merely give birth physically while men are able to do something superior: give birth spiritually.

Now, if it were accepted that women can be philosophers and can take on male powers--can disseminate ideas to their followers, have seminal insights, and so on--that is, if the appropriation of female powers took place in a context of reciprocal interchange and borrowing--then that appropriation would not be problematic.

But the problem is a tradition in which men are allowed to take on and sublimate female powers, without women being granted any reciprocal license to take on male powers.

The Theorist's Mother

Women are generally expected to care for children, and women do the majority of child-care. In this context, claiming that men too can be mothers is problematic because it threatens to obscure the persistence of this gendered division of labor. Indeed, perhaps the claim indirectly reinforces this division, despite itself, by implying that those who do child care whether they are male or female must be mothers--as is not implied by the claims "men can be parents" or "fathers can do child care.

Furthermore, unless mothers are biologically female individuals or, occasionally, formerly biological females who have changed sex but retained their wombs , Parker's careful readings of Marx and Freud are undermined. If men can be mothers, and can mother by giving birth to their theoretical offspring or heirs, then the father—son genealogies that structure Marxism and Freudianism are already maternal genealogies.

This would certainly put the mother at the heart of these discourses, but in a misleading way--for as Parker says, these discourses "seem to reproduce themselves without a trace of maternal involvement" If we are to first acknowledge and then complicate that apparent absence of maternal involvement, we need to admit that father—son theoretical genealogies are paternal, not maternal.

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