Welcome to the latest Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS) newsletter. This goes to those who have attended events organised by CPCS, and others who have expressed an interest in the work of the Centre.
Ellie Lee, Director CPCS E.J.Lee@kent.ac.uk
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1 Making Parents
Whilst ‘Parenting Culture’ and ‘Assisted Reproductive Technologies’ are now well established subfields of sociological scholarship, so far, the common threads between these two bodies of work have not been significantly explored. Taking ‘reproduction’ as the focus of comparison, the ‘Making Parents’ project, run by CPCS Associates Charlotte Faircloth (UCL) and Zeynep Gurtin (Cambridge) aims to bring together novel contributions from scholars working in either field who are interested in creating such connections. In particular, the project will explore the ways contemporary cultures of parenthood create an appetite for these technologies, just as technologies simultaneously contribute to shaping those very cultures. As part of the project, the team have run three events: a panel at the American Anthropological Association meetings in Denver (November 2015); a conference held at the University of Roehampton in conjunction with the BSA Human Reproduction and Families and Relationships Study Groups (December 2015); and a panel at the BSA Annual Conference in Manchester (April 2017).
See the ‘Making Parents’ project webpages for further details, including publications.
2 Pregnancy and parenting culture
CPCS co-organised two events last summer term to further develop discussion about pregnancy. Both were a great success. Follow the links below to read write-ups about the events, access media coverage and other written resources.
Policing pregnancy: who should be a mother?
Thursday 18 May 2017, Canterbury Christ Church University
Doctors, conscience and abortion provision
Thursday 29 June 2017, University of Kent, Canterbury
3 Upcoming events: Kent
Tuesday 3 October, 18.30-20.00, Queen Elizabeth School, Abbey Place, Faversham, Kent ME13 7BQ
CPCS’ Ellie Lee among the panellists
Abstract: To what extent should the state be responsible for determining what are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parental decisions? Should there be limits on parents’ rights to make decisions for their children, based on their own personal moral, ideological or religious convictions? Is the increasing level of state involvement making things better for children, protecting them from parental harm, or is it in danger of undermining parental autonomy?
This event is free to attend. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm attendance and number of seats you require.
CPCS@kent, Autumn Term 2017
Wednesday November 22, 15.00
Bad Beginnings? A Qualitative Study of Prison Mother and Baby Units
Introduction by Rose Mortimer, DPhil Candidate, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, and member of the BeGOOD Early Intervention Project
Cornwallis NW Seminar Room 3, University of Kent Canterbury
Abstract: In recent years, early intervention (EI) has received growing policy attention within the UK. Interestingly, the children of prisoners are notably absent from UK EI policy. However, there are six Mother and Baby Units within UK women’s prisons where babies and toddlers reside with their mothers for up to 18 months. Although the term ‘early intervention’ is seldom used in this context, in practice a large part of the work done within MBUs focuses on building parenting skills and generally providing women with the knowledge and confidence to become good mums – and by extension – to be and to raise good citizens, and in so doing, build a better society. In this presentation I will discuss some of the preliminary findings from my qualitative research with mums and staff in the mother and baby unit within HMP Styal, a women’s prison in the North West of England. Through a combination of interviews, focus groups and participant observation I explore how the prison’s goal of rehabilitation is tied to the identities of these women as mothers, what it means to make a woman a ‘good mother’ in this context, and how prison programs and environments are designed to achieve this goal. A study of prison MBUs allows me to explore key ethical concepts such as autonomy, responsibility, care and justice.
Full details about CPCS@kent here.
4 Battle of Ideas 2017, 28 and 29 October, The Barbican, London.
CPCS is convening the following discussions at this Festival.
Student tickets available at very reduced rates.
Does epigenetics justify ‘early intervention’? Sunday October 29, 10.00-11.30
Epigenetics has been embraced by public health activists as a scientific justification for programmes of intensive early intervention in pregnancy and childhood. This session draws on two new books. In one, Maurizio Meloni focuses on the history of the troubled interface between biology and politics; the other, by Sue White and David Wastell, examines the contemporary application of the science of epigenetics to social policy. Are the claims of epigenetics enthusiasts legitimate? If not, why does such a deterministic outlook continue to have such appeal? Does some scientific thinking lend itself to political appropriation? What is the place of scientific evidence in political decision-making?
The Battle for Abortion Rights, Sunday October 29, 2-3.30pm
2017 sees the 50th anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act. In this session, a panel of pro-choice campaigners from around the world will discuss what is at stake in the battle for abortion rights. Who or what is it for ‘for’? And who or what is it ‘against’? What does it mean to argue for a woman’s right to choose? Is abortion a purely private matter? Is it right to think about abortion as ‘just like any other medical procedure’, or do wider moral issues arise when a woman chooses to end her pregnancy? Is opposition to abortion rights the same the world over? Is it essentially religious or based on a more universal moral intuition? Is it simply about the sanctity of life or does it imply a continued view of women that sees ‘maternity as destiny’?
The following sessions at the event will also be of interest:
Millennials: Youthquake or Snowflakes? Sunday October 29, 16.00-17.15. With CPCS’ Jennie Bristow
Every generation is defined by its own attitudes, values and key figures – none more so than the millennials. Once referred to as simply ‘Generation Y’, those born between the late 1990s and mid 2000s have garnered a reputation as ‘Generation Snowflake’ for their prioritisation of feelings over the ‘stiff upper lip’. Are the adults of tomorrow over-anxious snowflakes masquerading as a youthquake? Or is their pursuit of a nicer, kinder politics – where everyone is encouraged to talk about their feelings and strive to right all of history’s wrongs – exactly the kind of shake up Western politics has been waiting for?
Rearing Generation Safe Space, Sunday October 29, 17.30-18.45 with Free Range Kids’ Lenore Skenazy
In modern times, childhood is seen as a distinct period in our lives when we are nurtured, educated and given protection from the vagaries of adult life. The role of adults has been to help guide children towards adulthood. That means striking the right balance between, on the one hand, protecting children and young people from risks and the harsher side of life, and, on the other hand, exposing them to some of life’s challenges so that they can start assuming more responsibility for their lives and learn from difficulties and set-backs. As children and young people are more vulnerable than adults, should we not be doing our utmost to keep them safe from any possible harm? Or is society holding children and young people back by wrapping them in cotton wool – from infancy to young adulthood? Could we be raising a generation ill-prepared to face adult responsibilities and negotiate life’s many challenges?
From FGM to Charlie Gard: What are the limits to parental autonomy? Saturday October 28, 10.00-11.30
Where should parental choice over how to bring up their children begin and end? Should it be restricted, and if so, what should such restrictions cover? Who should make the decisions? Should allowances be made for certain practices, just because they are ‘cultural’ or religious? What rights should children be granted? Who is best placed to make decisions on behalf of children?
Can and should schools make pupils ‘work ready’? Sunday October 29, 16.00-17.30
At the end of 2016, Ofsted’s survey, ‘Getting ready for work’, declared that the ‘nation’s economic prosperity is at risk because the majority of England’s schools fail to prioritise enterprise education and work-related learning’. But is depending on careers guidance to instil resilience and to offer inspirational role models and other ‘soft skills’ a loss of confidence in academic disciplines, which historically were assumed to perform the same role? If, as it is claimed, the career choices that young people make can be informed by the practical experience they gain at school, should schools indeed re-orientate their curriculum to help their pupils become more work-savvy? Should we move away from a prescriptive academic curriculum and embrace new school models such as careers colleges and university technical colleges, where pupils can go at 14 to take a vocational route?
5 Other upcoming events
International Sociological Association Conference, July 2018, Toronto
Includes call for papers for a session ‘The Culture of Parenthood’ as part of the Family Research strand.
The focus of this session is on historical and contemporary cultural understandings of motherhood and fatherhood. Current understandings of proper parenthood and children’s needs in Western societies emphasize intensive, child-centred parenting that focuses in particular on brain development and the future intellectual potential of children. Children today are viewed as more passive, more vulnerable, and more dependent on parents for longer periods of time than in the recent past. Their needs have also been increasingly positioned in opposition to parental needs. The family as several authors have suggested has become understood less as an integrated system of relationships among members and more as an ecosystem for a developing child. Several inter-related and powerful discourses came together over the course of the 20th and 21stcenturies to contribute to these understandings. These include the cultural understandings fostered by developmental psychology, child-rearing experts’ co-optation of neuroscience, neoliberal politics and rationality, risk discourse and gendered and classed understandings of proper parenthood.
This session welcomes papers that address the development and/or manifestations of contemporary cultural understandings of motherhood, fatherhood and childhood as well as those that examine the implications these understandings have for issues of class and gender equality, social policy formation and contemporary family experiences.
The Abortion Act was passed on 27 October 1967, at the vanguard of a wave of liberalising change across the western world and directly inspiring reform in a number of other countries. This two-day conference takes place in the week of the fiftieth anniversary, at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London.
6 Read and listen on
Sociologist Ros Edwards reviews ‘Parenting Culture Studies’. This review appears in a special issue of Gender and Education, ‘Deconstructing the ‘Parent’ in Parent-School Relationships: Addressing multiple identities and changing practice’.
Ellie Lee, The Sun, on drinking and pregnancy.