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Course description

Through guest lectures and discussions we will explore experiences and theories which challenge monomaternalism, i.e., the idea (or belief) that a child can have only one 'real' mother. We will discuss how (public) discourse on mothering and motherhood shapes the idea of who is a mother and who is not. Possible topics for discussion are stepmothers, foster and adoptive mothers; gendered dimensions of mothering; othermothering; how to mother ourselves; milk kinship; multiple parenthood; (transnational) surrogacy…

Through lectures, workshops and bookclubs we will address questions such as:

  • Is a stepmother a mother, and who gets to decide that?
  • If a child has been carried by a surrogate mother of colour, should this child be considered to be of colour?
  • What is the difference between genetic, biological and intended mother, and is it relevant to try to find out who is the ‘real’ mother?
  • Can fathers mother, or should they?
  • Is it legally possible for a child to have more than two parents?
  • Can epigenetics help to argue for polymaternalism?

Maternal studies are an interdisciplinary field which is reflected in the theories guiding our exploration: feminist philosophy, maternal theory, black feminism, crip theory and queer theory, amongst others.

Speakers for the 2024 winter school: Sophie Lewis, Shelley M. Park, Frederik Swennen, Rodante van der Waal, Siggie Vertommen, Noëmi Willemen and Alisa Zhabenko.

Study Credits

6 ECTS credits are awarded upon successful completion of the programme. All certificates of completion are issued as a micro-credential. 

Students need to attend the scheduled course contact hours, perform satisfactorily in the continuous assessment task of the course (including the moderation of a book club (group assignment) + drafting and presenting a short design for the research paper (individual presentation)) and complete the final assessment task (an individual research paper of max. 4000 words due March 30) in order to qualify for a certificate of completion. 

Participants who attend the scheduled course contact hours but don't complete the tasks will receive a certificate of attendance.

To include the credits in the curriculum at the home institution, participants need an agreement with the responsible person at the home institution.

Students are allowed to write a research paper (max. 4000 words) on a topic of their choice, as long as it connects to the topics of feminisms and motherhoods. The way in which the topic is elaborated in the research paper should reflect a critical study of the compulsory course literature and/or lectures and should explicitly address a considerable body of texts from the compulsory course literature and/or lectures. The compulsory reading will be distributed in December via a digital reader (approx. 200 pages of reading in total). 5 articles from the reader will be singled out and discussed during book clubs that will be moderated by the participants themselves (group assignment).

The evaluation of the active participation (group assignment, individual presentation) in the course amounts to 20% of the total grade for this course. The assessment of the research paper (4000 words) amounts to 80% of the total grade for this course. There is a possibility (but not required) to receive feedback on a draft of the research paper before March 15.

Target group

Ma-students, Masters and PhD-students interested in the topics discussed. We aim for an international and interdisciplinary audience.

The entire winter school will be in English.

Social Programme

Participants will be able to get in touch with peers attending other winter schools at Antwerp Summer and Winter University. A visit to the beautiful city hall, a networking reception, a guided city walk, a quiz night, a football game and a day-trip to another Belgian city such as Bruges or Brussels are only some examples of these activities. All activities of the social programme are offered free of charge, in some cases participants will be asked for a deposit which will be reimbursed upon participation to the activity.

Specific social activities in the days around and during the winter school on Feminism and Motherhood will be announced close to the start of the programme.