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Introduction: Birth

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2009
<mark>Journal</mark>Feminist Review
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)1-7
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We are all born. Hannah Arendt suggests that the absence of this primary fact
from histories of thought represents a significant lacuna in political and
philosophical traditions. For Arendt natality, the capacity to begin, is the
foundational fact of all thought, all politics and all action. Without some
fundmental understanding of the place of birth, there can, she suggests, be
no social change, no human future. Arendt’s insistence on thinking birth as
the basis for politics is radical in the context of a European tradition so
overwhelmingly preoccupied with death, terror and mourning. Perhaps in
Arendt’s natal thinking lie the seeds of an alternative, future-orientated
politics that might challenge the predominant neo-liberalism – an ideology
that Lauren Berlant eloquently describes as ‘the capitalist destruction of life
in the project of making value’ (2007: 282).

This special issue emerged out of a workshop, Maternal Bodies (2005) and a
conference Birth (2007), organized by Caroline Gatrell and myself at Lancaster
University. The articles and shorter papers introduce a selection of current
feminist work on the maternal and birth. Important and established scholars,
such as the art theorist Rosemary Betterton and geographer Robyn Longhurst,
appear alongside early career scholars and artists. All of the contributions in this
issue are concerned, in different ways, with the representation of birth and
questions of maternal agency. How can birth be thought and visualized
differently? As the (problematic) cyclical stucture of feminist work in this field
might suggest, these questions have been explored in some depth in feminist
theory and art practices from the 1970s onwards. However, I want to imagine that
a shift is taking place; a movement from an abject aesthetics towards the
creation of a ‘life-full’ natal aesthetics that cannot be subsumed back within
deathly abject paradigms (see Tyler, 2009).

Bibliographic note

“This is a pre-print of an article published in Feminist Review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Tyler, Imogen, On birth, Feminist Review 93 (1-7), 2009. is available online at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/journal/v93/n1/abs/fr200929a.html”