Accepted Paper:

The daughters of democracy reclaiming motherhood  


Karin Ekstrom (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper dicusses how women in contemporary, urban Spain engage in cultural negotiations to make sense of and cope with an identity as working mothers, without either role models (their mothers were the rebelling housewives), nor state or partners´ support.

Paper long abstract:

Since Spain´s transition to parliamentary democracy, in less than a generation´s time, Spanish women have gone from being highly valued full time housewives to sharing their time between insecure part time wage work and part time housewifery, with which noone seems content. Official (social democratic) feminist politics had at its core women´s entry into paid labour, whereas material conditions for conciliating wage work with motherhood were never a prioritized area. Nevertheless, women (still) want to become mothers, and motherhood remains a powerful symbol, albeit contested, due to its link to the former dictatorial regime. These contradictions leave women in a limbo like situation, in which they constantly negotiate their gendered selves, expressing insecurities, incapabilities and stress, not least in their position as mothers. In this paper, I situate my ethnographic material (from field work conducted 2005-7) within the debates on power, central to feminist anthropology since its inception. I follow those who have identified cultural negotiations as a concept vital to identifying power, in its allowing for a transgression of the contradiction between the liberating potential of postmodernist analyses and the need for materialist-political analyses. Feminist ethnography thus needs to identify fora for these negotiations, and analyse how gendered selves are produced, negotiated, changed, reproduced in these arenas. By employing this approach, I have aimed to escape the notions of backlash or reaction, to reach an understanding of how "the daughters of democracy" construct their liberation in the area of tension between discursive equality and material and practical inequality.

Panel P030
Innovation and continuity in the anthropology of gender and sexuality (Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality)