Critiquing the “Good Enough” Mother: A Perspective Based on the Murik of Papua New Guinea

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Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

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Despite ongoing debates about family, work, and the characteristics of good mothers, cultural and disciplinary biases have led many anthropologists and psychologists to ignore cultural aspects of mothering. Feminists and others have questioned the lack of agency for women in dominant psychological theories and the relative absence in psychoanalytic theory of mothers as subject persons. On the basis of data from the Murik of Papua New Guinea, in which mothering is conceptualized as a template for many kinds of social relationships and as a source of power, I argue that a holistic and relational view of mothering in social and cultural context is needed to restore subjectivity and agency to women as mothers and to understand mothering as a dynamic and culturally informed process.


This article was originally published in Ethos. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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