Call for proposals: ‘On the Maternal’

Performance Research Vol. 22, No. 4 (August 2017)

‘On the Maternal’

Proposal Deadline: Monday 19 September 2016

Issue Editors: Lena Šimić and Emily Underwood-Lee

Everyone, in some way, has a relationship to the maternal. As Adrienne Rich famously asserted we are all ‘of woman born’ (Rich 1996). Bracha Ettinger, who has developed the notion of the ‘matrixial’ and its radical compassionate ethics, notes that we all carry the maternal within us, regardless of whether we have chosen to become mothers or not, regardless of our gender, because we all carry the memory of being carried (Ettinger 2006, 2014). As Griselda Pollock notes:

The matrixial as a structure or logic of subjectivity is from the beginning several, an encounter-event, co-emerging and co-affecting between partners-in-difference that remain unknown to each other but share in this pre-birth incest as intimacy that may lay the psychic foundations for our capacities for ethics, hospitality and compassion for the other in their otherness and in my own alterity (radical unknownness). (2009: 10)

For this issue we are seeking contributions that will address maternal aesthetics, ethics, politics, labour and care, as well as questions of inter/trans/subjectivity. In particular, ‘On the Maternal’ seeks to open up new ways of thinking, seeing and feeling the maternal in and through performance practices. The editors are especially keen to receive submissions that will explore alliances between the maternal and (feminist) performance, which both actively embrace notions of vulnerability, risk, interruption, failure, labour, immanence/transcendence, celebration, endurance and certain kinds of discomfort, shame and embarrassment in the live encounter. International in scope, this issue will chart and theorize the multifaceted work of mother/artists working in the field of live art, theatre and performance as well as corresponding theoretical approaches across the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, medical humanities, maternal studies, feminist and political theory (see Hannah Arendt, Lisa Baraitser, Jessica Benjamin, Bracha Ettinger, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Julia Kristeva, and Adrienne Rich).

Recent years have seen a proliferation of mother/artist exhibitions, networks and performances internationally (including the Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood and Identity and Artist as Mother as Artist exhibitions; The Egg the Womb the Head and the Mooncollaborative blog and exhibition; the M/Other Voices foundation; Cultural ReProducers, Artful Care and Mothers Who Make networks; and performances including M.O.M. Marks of Motherlands by Helena Walsh, Under the Covers by Zoo Indigo, Motherland by Vincent Dance Theatre, The Mums and Babies Ensemble by Duška Radosavljević, Annie Rigby and Lena Šimić and Partus by Third Angel). There has been a concurrent establishment and strengthening of the academic discipline of maternal studies internationally with the MaMSIE network and Studies in the Maternal e-journal in the UK, Demeter Press specializing in publishing on motherhood (in collaboration with the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement), projects including Lise Haller Baggesen’s Mothernism and Natalie Loveless’s New Maternalisms, the ‘Motherhood and Creative Practice: Maternal structures in creative work’ conference at London South Bank University (June 2015) as well as the founding of the Journal of Mother Studies supported by the annual conferences at the Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) in New York. Through this flourishing of maternally focused scholarship and practice the maternal has been given a new critical currency and reframed within a feminist context. This connection of feminism and motherhood can be traced from Adrianne Rich’s seminal work Of Woman Born (1976) to the more recent work of Lisa Baraitser (Maternal Encounters: Ethics of interruption, 2009), Bracha Ettinger (The Matrixial Borderspace, 2006) and Amber E. Kinser, Kryn Freehling-Burton and Terri Hawkes (Performing Motherhood: Artistic, activist, and everyday enactments, 2014). The maternal has been particularly influential within visual art (Betterton 2014; Epp Buller 2012; Chernick and Klein 2011; Liss 2009; Pollock 1999) and somewhat in drama (Komporaly 2007; Šimić 2009).

The aim of this issue is to draw out the potential for creatively re-imagining the maternal found in performance and to locate the maternal within the discipline of performance studies. This issue builds on the three research gatherings convened by Šimić and Underwood-Lee that took place at the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire and University of South Wales in spring 2016. Šimić and Underwood-Lee’s ‘Study Room Guide on Live Art and Motherhood’ is currently in development and will be made available online via the Live Art Development Agency in autumn 2016.

Some of the research questions that we hope to address include:

• What are ‘maternal performance aesthetics’?
• What happens to the maternal when it is represented/re-enacted in performance (as opposed to in a non-live art medium) and how is the maternal refigured in performance?
• How do the lived and the staged collide?
• What are the politics and ethics of ‘maternal performance making’ and of making work while at the same time looking after the children?
• What are the maternal artists’ processes and methodologies?
• What can healthcare, education, welfare and other practitioners with an interest in the maternal and performance studies scholars and artists learn from one another?
• What are potential areas for development and further study?

In addition, some indicative areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

• Domesticity and DIY aesthetics
• Feminist genealogies and generations
• Mother/Daughter and other family relations
• Alternative configurations of the maternal
• Temporality, duration, maintenance
• Interruptions and ruptures
• Repetition and boredom
• Co-existence with child(ren) and others
• Networks of support
• Motherhood, activism and resistance
• The everyday maternal
• Adoption, childlessness and subfertility
• Cyber-mums and post-human motherhood
• Queer, trans and drag mothers
• Good/Bad mother
• Maternal labour
• Maternal Ambivalence
• Maternal and the Real
• Maternal abjection: the monstrous, corporeal, viscous, exuberant and excessive mother
• Maternal passions and jouissance
• Maternal grief, loss and bereavement
• Migrant mothers, borders and displacement
• Natality versus mortality
• Birth as spectacle
• Archetypes, myths and mothers
• Care across generations (children and parents)

We are inviting longer essays (between 4,000 and 6,000 words), shorter provocations (2,000 words) and artist pages (number of pages to be agreed with the editors).

Schedule: Proposals: Monday 19 September 2016
First drafts: Monday 12 December 2016
Final Drafts: March 2017
Publication: August 2017

Issue contacts: All proposals, submissions and general enquiries should be sent direct to the Journal at:
Issue-related enquiries should be directed to the issue editors: Lena Šimić and Emily Underwood-Lee

General guidelines for submissions:

  • Before submitting a proposal we encourage you to visit our website ( and familiarize yourself with the journal.
  • Proposals will be accepted by e-mail (MS-Word or Rich Text Format (RTF)). Proposals should not exceed one A4 side.
  • Please include your surname in the file name of the document you send.
  • If you intend to send images electronically, please contact the Journal first to arrange the best means of doing so.
  • Submission of a proposal will be taken to imply that it presents original, unpublished work not under consideration for publication elsewhere.
  • If your proposal is accepted, you will be invited to submit an article in first draft by the deadline indicated above. On the final acceptance of a completed article you will be asked to sign an author agreement in order for your work to be published in Performance Research.