Objects of desire: The child as prosthetic enhancement for maternal identity

Greenwood, Sallie (2007) Objects of desire: The child as prosthetic enhancement for maternal identity. In: Fifth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, 17-20 July, 2007, Paris, France. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or Summary

Freudian psychoanalysis understands the human relation to objects as a “relation of extension…amplifying his bodily capacities but, above all extending and cathecting the ego’s libidinal reach: in making himself more than himself”. While prosthetics are generally discussed in terms of human extension through technology, in this paper I use Freud’s and Bergson’s ideas to argue that a child is a cultural and psychic prosthetic, particularly for female subjects. Bergson (1944) differentiated between internal and external prosthetics, internal referring to instincts; animal nature. A prosthetic may also inhabit the body’s inside such as a donor organ, electrical wiring to maintain the heart’s rhythm or an artificial limb connected to the nervous system. Another living being, growing within a woman’s body might be thought of as a prosthetic if we understand prostheses as additions that augment and extend the human host. External prosthetics are those we have to learn, develop, acquire; the cultural adaptations we make to enhance animal nature. Maternal subjects undertake the work of turning themselves into ‘mothers’, a construction that varies considerably across time and place. The reward for undertaking such work is the confirmation of a sexual identity and cultural status, and simultaneously the generation of possibilities for new identity configurations. However, the work undertaken to construct oneself as ‘mother’ is hollow without the presence of a child to reflect her authenticity and in this way the child is a prosthetic object for her identity.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords that describe the item:Prosthesis, Maternal subjectivity, Desire
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions:Schools > Centre for Health & Social Practice
ID Code:273
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Deposited On:01 Jul 2009 23:59
Last Modified:01 Jul 2009 23:59

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