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The Study of Religions and Motherhood Studies: A Fruitful Interdisciplinary Potential? (1/2)

Panel Chair: Florence Pasche Guignard | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 | Venue

This panel features scholarship on motherhood (as an institution), mothering (as women’s experience), and mothers in several religious traditions with the aim to uncover the interdisciplinary potential of motherhood studies with the study of religions and reflect on new paths of research. Studies on kinship and family, im/purity in childbirth, transition rituals, spiritual mothering, goddesses, etc. constitute traditional topics in our discipline, while other areas still deserve further consideration. This is the case of women’s religious experience as mothers and of discourses not just about family and parenting, but by women reflecting on or challenging the religiously defined norms of “the good mother”. The contributions to this panel examine maternal representations and ritual practice in various historical and religious contexts. Methodological issues raised by these cross cultural perspectives will also be addressed in the response to the panel and in the discussion.

Florence Pasche Guignard

A “Mother Turn” for Study of Religion\s? A Literature Review on the Study of Mothers, Motherhood and Mothering in Religious Traditions

As both disciplines focus on an (often difficult to define) topic (“religion\s”, “motherhood”) rather than a geographical area, a historical period, or the use of specific research designs and methods, the study of religion\s and motherhood studies share some epistemological and methodological issues. This presentation will underline the most important ones and see which new paths of research could emerge from the intersection of the study of religion\s with contemporary motherhood studies, a burgeoning field. This introduction first consists in an overview of the state of scholarship in both disciplines. As this review of literature will show, even if it has successfully integrated theoretical inputs of gender studies, our discipline has not yet taken the “mother turn”. Motherhood, as a normative institution, and patriarchal representations of mothers are classical topics of research, but mothering, as women’s experience, remains an understudied issue (often because of a lack of access to sources).

Giulia Pedrucci

Divine Motherhood in the Greek and Roman Polytheisms

An analysis of a variety of ancient Greek and Roman sources (medical, philosophical, poetic, iconographic, juridical, epigraphical) reveals a female stereotype in which the woman and the mother overlap to a point where they practically coincide. We also gain the impression that we cannot speak of a motherhood tout court, but of several motherhoods, depending on the context taken into consideration: purely physiological, political, social, mythical, religious, philosophical, juridical or iconographic. Therefore, rather than real people, we have figures or characters.

Augusto Cosentino

Women and Female Figures in Lokroi: Mothers, Daughters, Lovers

The status of (human or divine) women in Lokroi Epizephyrioi, in Magna Graecia, is characterized by peculiar aspects, as is the Locrian cult to Persephone and Demeter in this apparently matriarchal context. An analysis of archaeological data identified the so-called “U-Shaped Stoa” as the site of “sacred prostitution”. Moreover, one of the most important sanctuaries of Persephone in South Italy was located in Lokroi. A collection of pinakes, pottery tablets, that were found there represent the myth of Kore’s rape and her subsequent wedding (as Persephone), but goddess Demeter is never depicted in these pinakes. A particularly intriguing pinax features a female figure opening a cista (corb) with a child inside. Who are they? Is this a maternal figure? This paper examines the potential relationships between these various elements and underlines Persephone’s role in relation with her mother Demeter and with Aphrodite.


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