Transforming feminist care ethics : tracing (un)memorable mother-daughter relations through psychoanalytic inquiry : thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Massey University, Manawatu Campus, New Zealand
This thesis draws upon traditional and feminist theories of psychoanalysis, and embarks upon a journey of inquiry initiated by a personal experience of end-of-life care for my mother. Positioned as responsible caregiver, I found myself unable to articulate my experiences as anything other than caregiver-patient who suffered a combination of ‘exhaustion and grief’ leading to hallucination manifesting as hysterical symptom. The constraints on positioning available to me generated the following question as the catalyst for present study. How can mother and daughter relations be spoken within contemporary discourse and how is care positioned in relation to mother-daughter encounter? The inquiry begins with a critical reading of contemporary literature on mothering, care and caring to locate the study within a genealogy of feminist engagement with ethics of care. After situating both feminist care ethics and hysteria within the trajectory of psychoanalytic development, I explore Lacan’s rereading of Freud’s mapping of the unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious as the initial theoretical framework for inquiry, given that this is where hysteria linguistically intertwines with psychoanalysis as a product of caregiving stress. Within the genre of searching, I follow a series of journeys, investigating texts for gaps and pathways enabling a mother-daughter encounter to be remembered and spoken differently. Each journey informs and transforms the problematics of remembering and articulating mother-daughter encounter. Yet they reiterate constrictions at the place where perception meets thought, and each journey is hindered by a metaphorical wall of language. After discussing how the wall locates mother-daughter encounter and care within discourse and shapes reality as a constant series of assimilating, marginalising and discriminating I extend the scope of inquiry
through reading feminist theorists of difference including Irigaray’s concepts of mimesis and fluidity, Ettinger’s matrixial borderspace and Braidotti’s nomadic subject. This allows a rereading of feminist care ethics and possibilities of transformations, where theorising a more inclusive grammatical structure can be thought as enabling possibilities for speaking, writing and remembering women’s encounters with women and a daughter’s encounter with her mother.