Special Issue: ‘Reimagining Childhood, Motherhood, Family and Community’

Professor Jayne Osgood and Dr Allison Sterling Henward have together edited this important special issue of the journal Genealogy. The SI reimagines central concepts relating to family life, extending and problematising current conceptualisations through new theoretical lenses, including critical humanist, speculative post-humanist and feminist new materialist approaches.

We ground this Special Issue in our commitment to critical, feminist, worldly knowledge production that actively works to interrogate existing modernist ideas of childhood and motherhood as well as the institutions, discourses, and histories that work to limit conceptualizations and practices. For decades, various fields in social science and humanities have supplied multiple narratives, tropes, and discursive archives about family, community, mothering, and childhood (Foucault, 1977). Following Foucault (1977), through these processes, families, mothers, communities, and children become discoverable and ‘knowable’. Discourses are ‘constituted by a group of sequences of signs, in so far as they are statements, that is, in so far as they can be assigned particular modalities of existence’ (Foucault, 1972, p. 107) and the way they operate in the research and the power/knowledge nexus is inherent in the construction (Popkewitz and Brennan, 1998). These and other ‘depoliticized discourses function to naturalize socially constructed concepts’ (MacClure, 2011, p.129).

By inviting critical humanist and speculative post-humanist or feminist new materialist approaches to this conversation, we focus on temporality, the complexity, and the overlooked occurrences that typically make up family life. The collective scholarly aim is to generate and extend knowledge about childhood, motherhood, family, and community as inherently contextual, contingent, conflicting, contested, dynamic, uncertain, and, in the tradition of genealogy, socially and historically produced within contexts. Neoliberal versions of parenting, family, motherhood, and childhood have been heavily critiqued for their limiting, essentializing, and containing effects. As these framings become translated into policy and practices, too often, contemporary families feel the brunt. Through modernist understandings, families are normalized, categorized, and too often excluded- deemed insufficient and abnormal within educational and social service policy and practice.

Ways of thinking otherwise become particularly urgent in the Anthropocene, where human activities, conceptualizations, and practices are having world-changing effects on the earth’s ecosystem (Braidotti, 2016). With heart-wrenching speed, families, mothers, communities, childhoods, and kin are being torn apart. The global increase in migration caused by human and non-human factors (i.e., global capitalism, environmental desecration) highlight the failings and crumbling of existing epistemologies and ontologies. Modernist, humanist understandings make even less sense now. We view this SI as an ethical response that invites speculation, complexity, and bravery to meet the uncertainty and instability of our times.

This issue would not be possible without the authors. Your papers have invigorated, sustained, and pushed us to reimagine what is possible when thinking otherwise. We are especially grateful to the production team at MDPI headed up by Allie Shi, for their careful work and thought that went into helping us bring this issue to life.

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