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Prima Gravida' - reconfiguring the maternal body in representation.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2002
JournalFeminist Theory
Journal number3
Volume3
Number of pages16
Pages255-270
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Over the past decade, representations of pregnant embodiment, foetal imagery and the maternal body have become the subject of intense feminist investigation across fields as diverse as philosophy, science and cultural studies. This body of work represents a sustained intervention in the politics of reproduction and the politics of representation that builds on earlier feminist discourses on motherhood. Within this article, I want to address the limits of, and ruptures in, the representation of the maternal body in relation to particular examples of visual art practice. The article focuses on four pregnant figurations that seem to constitute certain limit points in the representation of maternal embodiment: the 'phantom' pregnant body; the elderly prima gravida; the pregnant woman with disabilities; and young women undergoing abortion. My argument is that, in these particular visual texts, 'being pregnant' is represented as an unnatural rather than a natural state and as a cultural rupturing of feminine and maternal norms. This seems to offer a useful starting point from which to interrogate the relations between prevailing discourses around the maternal subject and the unstable subject of pregnancy.