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Accepted Paper:

The Power of Human and Nonhuman Motherhood in Modern India  
Catrien Notermans (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the intersection of human and nonhuman motherhood in India. It argues that by relating to nonhuman mothers (earth, animals, rivers, and goddesses), human mothers create a powerful sense of local, national and civic belonging to Bharat Mata, Mother the Nation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the intersection of human and nonhuman motherhood in India. It describes how dominant and accepted interpretations and practices of motherhood in India transcend the human by including the natural and the spiritual world of earth, trees, animals, and rivers as well as all kinds of mother goddesses associated with that natural world. The paper argues that by relating to nonhuman mothers (who both dwell in place and transcend that place), human mothers create a profound sense of local, national and civic belonging.

In the immense republic of India - the seventh largest country in the world and covering 29 states with a vast diversity of people, landscapes, climates, ethnicities, religions and cultural traditions –women as mothers primarily experience intimate feelings of belonging to the patrilineal family, the village and the local landscape. However, through their religious practices of nature pilgrimage and goddess worship, they also connect to the regional and national level of the modern nation-state. The nation of India herself is perceived as a mother and a goddess: Bharat Mata, Mother the Nation. The national icon shows the goddess with a lion and a flag, suggesting a dense relationship between Mother India’s anthropomorphic form and the political map of India (Eck 2012:28). The proposed paper will focus on married Hindu women in Rajasthan and explore how women’s religious practices and reciprocal relationships of care with nonhuman mothers help them to construct narratives of civic engagement and national belonging to the nation-state.

Panel P013a
Motherhood Transformed and Transforming; Discussing the role of motherhood(s) and mother work in constructing futures of hope I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -