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‘Watching what I’m doing, watching how I’m doing it’: Exploring the everyday experiences of surveillance and silenced voices among marginalised mothers in Welsh low-income locales

Mannay, Dawn ORCID:, Creaghan, Jordon, Gallagher, Dunla, Mason, Sherelle, Morgan, Melanie and Grant, Aimee ORCID: 2018. ‘Watching what I’m doing, watching how I’m doing it’: Exploring the everyday experiences of surveillance and silenced voices among marginalised mothers in Welsh low-income locales. Taylor, Tiffany and Bloch, Katrina, eds. Marginalized Mothers, Mothering from the Margins, Vol. 25. Advances in Gender Research, vol. 25. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 25-40. (10.1108/s1529-212620180000025002)

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Motherhood and mothering are conceived in relation to classed hierarchies through which those in living in poverty become characterised by ‘otherhood’ and ‘othering’. This positioning leaves them vulnerable to overt and indirect forms of criticism, surveillance and policing from family, friends, professionals and strangers; against a background of demonisation of particular types of mothers and mothering practices in the wider mediascape. This paper draws on three studies, involving 28 participants, which explored their journeys into the space of parenthood and their everyday experiences. The participants all resided in low-income locales. Many participants had resided in homeless hostels and mother and baby units before being placed in local authority housing or low grade rented accommodation. The studies all employed forms of visual ethnography including photo-elicitation, timelines, emotion stickers, collage and sandboxing. Participants discussed different forms of surveillance where other people were characterised as ‘watching what I’m doing, watching how I’m doing it’. These forms of watching ranged from the structured policing encountered in mother-and-baby units to more informal comments from passers-by or passengers on a bus journey; and an awareness of how mothers in state housing are depicted in the media. These interactions were sometimes met with resistance, at other times they were simply another incident that participants negotiated in a growing tapestry of disrespect and devaluation. This chapter argues that these discourses demonise and alienate mothers living on the margins, making already difficult journeys a constant struggle in the moral maze of contemporary motherhood and its accompanying conceptualisations of ‘otherhood’.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Uncontrolled Keywords: Class; Demonisation; Motherhood; Othering; Otherhood; Surveillance; Visual Methods
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN: 9781787564008
Funders: Wellcome Trust, Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP), the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) as part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Transformative Research Seedcorn Initiative
Date of Acceptance: 19 February 2018
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2024 10:00

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