Academic journal article Vitae Scholasticae

Weaving with M/other

Academic journal article Vitae Scholasticae

Weaving with M/other

Article excerpt

Mother as the Other: M/other

A family is bodily complex and socially relational. Hence, a familial alignment is a micro unit in which to explore the self/other relationship. (1) Mothers in particular occupy an intimate role in the family organization in sharing biological connectivity with their offspring. Calling a mother "Other," then, as I do in this essay, is ambiguous and complex. More broadly, historically, socially, and culturally constructed mothering discourses and knowledge can render "the mother" strange and othered--a m/other (2)--in fact, predetermining, appropriating, and even objectifying her (3) mothering performances and relationships in familial and social relations.

This paper aims to articulate the interrelationality in the m/other (self/other) relationship in dealing with her otherness. By investigating my subjectivities as m/other and the relationship with my m/other, I examine the interrelationship between my mother and me in our situated m/othering context where my mothering performativity (4) and relationship with my mother have emerged. My mother is a weaver, and I have begun learning how to weave from her. Through the concept of weaving, I reconsider my relationship as/ with m/ other in working with the otherness. Using weaving as the embodied experience of researching my relationship as/with m/other, I weave in and out of memories, present-day experiences, and objects which connect my mother and me across time, space, and culture. The temporal and partial encounters with my mother's otherness have enabled me to understand my mother anew. Focusing on Judith Butler's question of "how to treat otherness well," in an ambiguous self/other relationship, (5) I delve into how otherness can be recognized and worked within my m/other relationship.

In the essay that follows, introducing the concept of m/ other and m/othering, I first contextualize and investigate the process of formulating my maternal subjectivities and my relationship with my mother, as well as our roles as daughters, mothers, wives, and daughters-in-law in Korean culture. Our m/othering has been formulated in response to the networks of forces such as the Neo-Confucian ideals of "good" mothers as devotional domestic caregivers, the campaign of scientific mothering for modernizing family, and neoliberal conceptions of "good" education for endless competition that are promoted globally. I then examine my memories and experiences as/with m/ other, with my narrated reflections and analysis. In doing so, I interrogate moments of tension, fragmentation, and excessiveness, which emerged in response to these broader taken-for-granted understandings of mother. Using examples of my mother's woven baskets and family heirlooms, I delve into their intergenerational meaning and transformative materiality in relation to my narratives of m/other. Lastly, through the conceptual project of weaving with m/other, I articulate the process of constructing my m/other relationship by examining its entanglement and segmentation, which invite further connections. Furthermore, I consider, using Goodall and Bailey, how investigating the complexity of interconnection (6) and ontological fluidity of material objects and relations (7) within a family alliance contributes to family methodology.

M/other and M/othering

Feminist studies of mother (8) differentiate the term mothering from motherhood, in shifting their focus from biological and patriarchal theoretical frameworks to the notion of "mother" as socially constructed. In particular, O'Reilly (9) considers "motherhood" as a male-defined term and "mothering" as the female point of view and experience. She also urges scholars to shift from the patriarchal ideology of motherhood to the "explicitly and profoundly political-social practice" of mothering. (10)

The terms I use: "m/other" and "m/othering," (11) signal a new way of understanding a maternal subject's thinking and doing. …

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