THE AESTH-ETHICS OF INTERRUPTION: Maternal Subjectivity and Practices of Care as Aesthetic, Political and Environmental Forces in the Creative Processes of Five Contemporary Mother-Artists

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Located at the intersection of contemporary art practice, theory and criticism, cultural analysis and feminist maternal theory, this dissertation engages with maternal interruptions, experience, subjectivity, practice and thinking as generative cultural, political and environmental forces in the artistic practices of five contemporary mother-artists. The dissertation asks what kind of aesthetic, social and political relations, imaginaries and spaces are being produced and proposed by the creative processes of mother-artists turning to their maternal subjectivity of ‘severality’, that is of being more than ‘one’, as a foundational methodological attitude in their otherwise varied practices and geopolitical locations of cultural production.
By positioning both mothering and art-making as distinctive disciplines of social, cultural and political action, the theoretical intervention that this dissertation makes is to think of mothering and art-making together as an interdisciplinary practice of social, cultural, political and environmental action and change. This intervention is threefold. Firstly, considering mothering and art making together as two distinct disciplines allows for the thinking and theorising of mothers as insightful research partners within the somewhat diverse but still exclusive field of contemporary arts practice. This strategic shift creates steps towards a more inclusive field of new knowledge production within the field of contemporary arts. Secondly, thinking (of) mothering as part of an interdisciplinary practice of cultural production allows us to examine and re-define, when necessary, the oppressive, discursive management of the figure of the ‘mother’ and the ‘maternal’ under hegemonic patriarchal structures by defining these terms through the practices of actual mothers themselves. This has the potential not only to move us toward a greater gender equity and open society, but also to allow for new and previously unseen knowledges and ways of doing to rise to the fore. Thirdly, and together with the theoretical lenses of new materialist, deep ecological and ecofeminist thought employed in this dissertation, this theoretical intervention unearths maternal subjectivity and practice as cultural, political and environmental forces of change.
The dissertation is divided into three chapters. Each of the chapters engages anew with the same set of research questions, each time approaching them through the coordinates of differing geopolitical locations and through differing embodied and situated maternal experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Buikema, Rosemarie, Primary supervisor
  • Thiele, Kathrin, Co-supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2021
Print ISBNs978-94-6416-827-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • maternal relational aesth-ethics
  • maternal subjectivity of severality
  • maternal interruptions- practice-thinking
  • mother-artists
  • artistic process
  • narrative analysis
  • feminist maternal theory
  • new materialism


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