Research Project – Theorizing Motherhood in the Academy

 Research Proposal – Theorizing Motherhood in the Academy

Digital Humanities is a relatively new field that is currently exploring its relevance, theory, and action. “Attempts to define the digital humanities represents a foray into contested terrain” (Matthew Gold, Digital Humanities), and yet DH has been successful in a) accessing funding, b) perpetuating a discussion of itself, c) offering classes at universities around the world. DH has exercised its considerable muscle through MOOCS, digitally interactive archives, and online exhibits. I am interested in leveraging Digital Humanities theory and praxis as a useful tool for examining and developing an intellectual analysis of procreative action and its results within existing sociological/women’s and gender studies departments. I contend this new interdisciplinary construct, which I call “Mother Studies” is currently being pioneered in universities around the world, however it has not been identified or expanded into a legitimate inter-disciplinary field. As the founding director of the International Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) in New York City, I have been exploring the theory and materiality of mothers, fathers, and family for the past 10 years. My focus is to identify and contextualize mothering rhetoric by identifying its history and canons in order to collect and establish interactive teaching technology (online and in text), and to make this information accessible to interested students.

My driving mandate is that education should be in the service to humanity. If education makes people better, then why is there no education about the very thing that makes us? Because many academic systems are built on a religious framework that historically marginalized women, and focused narrowly on the intellectual pursuits of scientized objectivity, motherhood – a messy, dichotomous endeavor at best – has not been considered worthy of discourse. I argue “Mother Studies” is the logical symbolic daughter of the ever expanding, and microscoping feminist/sociological discourse. In 2011 Sage Publishing released The Encyclopedia of Motherhood. The three-volume work included feminist arts organizations, activist agencies, and academics spearheading new work about motherhood. Much has been written, filmed, blogged-about, researched, and collected. However the body of the discourse has not been aggregated into a consumable intellectual project. My approach will be inclusive, diverse, and broad. I will begin my focus on American motherhood, but open up the possibility for expanded contributions from a global perspective. I will do this by collecting into an interactive digital textbook, available in printed form (at intervals) the theory, practice, and analysis of motherhood, divided into interdisciplinary chapters.

I believe that by gazing deeply into our own concepts and constructs of society, the academy, and ourselves we can identify where there is room for expansion and improvement. With the aid of technology, I aim to bring together researchers from a broad range of fields. Through collection, examination, and dissemination I will identify what this new and emerging field is and how to place it. Intellectuals who believe this subject has merit have laid much groundwork. In conclusion, by writing grants to the NEH (submitted this year, 2014), leveraging grants like the “MAP” grant M.O.M. received from the Alliance of American Museums (2013), and past successes such as the three-year donated lease in Manhattan (2011-2014 approximate value $500,000.00) I aim to construct my project interactively. I will take an interdisciplinary approach to shaping the theory and practice of “Mother Studies” by a) pulling from existing sources, b) engaging the academic “collective,” c) establishing a framework with which to view the topic as a scholarly endeavor, b) utilizing DH theory and tools to enhance evaluation and discussion.