Situations in a common culture: Interdisciplinary strategies for mapping modern motherhood

Kehily, M. J. and Thomson, R. (2009). Situations in a common culture: Interdisciplinary strategies for mapping modern motherhood. In: ESRC Research Seminar Series: Cross Cultural and Interdisciplinary Issues in Research on Motherhoods, Markets and Consumption, 16 Jan 2009, Keele University.



Commercialisation and commodification have transformed the meaning and experience of mothering in the post war period, with the greater availability of labour saving devices and the stylising of pregnancy and baby-hood characterising perceptions of the contemporary period. The material culture of pregnancy and new motherhood is an important site for the construction of identities and the performance of cultural distinction between women. The Making of Modern Motherhood is an ESRC funded study documenting and exploring the diversity and coherence of motherhood as a contemporary identity. The study brings together methodologies and analytic frameworks from sociology and cultural studies in order to explore the dynamic relationship between the very different situations that constitute motherhood and the common popular culture through which mothering is represented and consumed. In this paper we explain how we combined disciplinary traditions, synthesising an analysis of pregnancy magazines, visual documentations of expectant mothers' preparations for birth, and the interview accounts of 62 women. We focus on the way in which age operates as a canonical category for the construction of contemporary mothering as 'too early', 'too late' or 'just right' – and the ways in which these categories resonate with popular representations of mothering.

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