Blessings on the Hand of Women…: For the Hand That Rocks the Cradle Rules the World

Sallie Greenwood
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Maternal doubles, such as occur in adoption, fostering, surrogacy, and lesbian families, are a common phenomenon in New Zealand and other western countries. Yet, anxiety is invoked by two women both making an authoritative maternal claim on the same child, and thus failing to impose boundaries that clearly differentiate their positions. Theorising why this may be I argue that while the constituted self has abjected the mother in the process of individuating she remains a powerful trace. When there are two ambiguously differentiated mothers meaning collapses and the fragility of the symbolic becomes evident. It is threatened both by the uncanny effects of doubling and because the identity being blurred is the archaic precursor of identity. As Creed (1993, 29) said “[f]ear of losing oneself and one’s boundaries is made more acute in a society which values boundaries over continuity, and separateness over sameness.” In this paper I analyse films featuring maternal doubles. I use psychoanalysis both to understand the historically constituted subject and as a discourse being utilized in film texts. I explore where anxiety is produced, how it is manifested and ultimately how it is resolved by the film and for the viewer.

Keywords: Psychoanalysis, Maternal Subjects, Film Analysis, Abjection
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Blessings on the Hand of Women…

Sallie Greenwood

Senior lecturer, Department of Health, Waikato Institute of Technology
Hamilton, New Zealand

My disciplinary location is in Critical Psychology and my professional training in Community Psychology. Currently I am teaching in undergraduate and postgraduate nursing programmes, predominantly utilising postcolonial and psychoanalytic perspectives. My research interests are varied and include a narrative exploration of the experience of attempted suicide in young women, evaluation of health services, and participatory action research. My PhD work is a poststructural exploration of maternal subjectivity through the lens of maternal doubles. I bring theory from a number locations to bare on the inquiry taking the view that the imaginary and the material intersect with each other in complex ways.

Ref: I07P0566