Postpartum as Portal: Reimagining Western Conceptions of the Human Through Linocut Printmaking Workshops on Postpartum and Motherhood by Sophia Pekowsky, 1961950
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While the postpartum time and its associated complications are well researched from a medical and psychological standpoint, there are few philosophical or feminist theories that take the postpartum as a point of study. In this thesis, I posit the postpartum as an entrance point, a portal, to lean into the inherent transformational and vulnerable characteristics of humanity that are so often denied, especially to women and mothers, in Western philosophy. This study is based in posthumanist theory (Braidotti, 2013) in which the Western idea of the individual and the contained subject is problematized to imagine an alternative relational and situated subjectivity. I use arts-based methods, working with the medium of linocut printing to allow participants to explore conceptions of the postpartum in focus groups. I discuss how the medium of linocut printing provides a unique way for the participants to process their ideas and reflection and argue for this medium to be incorporated into arts-based research. Throughout this study, I argue that experiences and perceptions of the postpartum period by women/birthing people located within Europe can challenge Western conceptions of the human by reclaiming the abject liquids associated with this time, advocating for increased vulnerability and care, rethinking static conceptions of the body that are contained by the skin, and troubling the self/other binary. The troubling of the self/other binary in the postpartum is explored both through the relationships between birth giver, child, and community and through cultural food-based rituals, which showed how food in the postpartum moved between the self and the other as a connecting force, creating alternative meanings in Western and non-Western traditions (food as regulation and control vs. care). I discuss the philosophy behind “bounce back culture”- in which women in the West are expected to bounce back to their pre-pregnant state after birth, and analyze the negative affects this mindset has. I put forward a new feminist figuration: the Posthuman Postpartum, that confirms and expands upon posthuman theory by questioning the assumed separation involved in birth and further problematizing food as a relational and culturally situated force.