Revisiting Mary O’Brien – Reproductive Consciousness and Liquid Maternity


  • Annette Burfoot



gender, liquid modernity, post-structuralism, socialist feminism, surrogacy


This research note examines feminist theory from socialist feminism through the post-structural turn associated with thinkers like Foucault, Derrida and Butler to neo-materialism, this last noted for its emphasis on the body's materiality as opposed to the subject as a socially constructed or merely linguistic practice. Tracing these theoretical developments is contextualized with respect to theories and concepts such as feminist standpoint theories of epistemology, historical materialism and Baumann's "liquid modernity". I ask: have we lost sight of the strength of feminist structuralism - particularly the effects of capital - in order to accommodate multiple and complex subjectifications associated with gender? Mary O'Brien's reproductive consciousness, her argument that women's consciousness is fundamentally shaped through the different moments related to reproduction, is re-examined in light of recent developments in egg donation and surrogacy. This is not intended as an exercise in romantic longing for some sort of utopian society where femininity is venerated. Rather, it is an exploration of the potential for reproductive consciousness to guide political responses to contemporary problems raised by new reproductive technologies that combine capital and gender in a single dialectic.






Research Notes