Geographies that matter: Pregnant bodies in public places
Longhurst, R. (1996). Geographies that matter: Pregnant bodies in public places (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5644
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5644
This thesis has two objectives. First, I argue that there exists a dichotomy between mind and body and that the mind (rationality and masculinity) is privileged over the body (irrationality and femininity). This dichotomy underpins human geographical knowledge as it is currently constituted. I examine examples from time-geography, humanistic geography, medical geography and feminist geography in order to illustrate the ways in which the body is Othered. This Othering of the body in geography serves to marginalise certain individuals and groups, such as women, who are thought to be 'tied to their bodies' and, therefore, incapable of reason. It is a specific notion of knowing as disembodied that marginalises women in the production of geographical knowledge. A privileging of the mind over the body is one of the reasons why, despite feminist interventions, contemporary geography continues to be a largely masculinist discourse. The second objective of this thesis is to contribute to the creation of a 'sexually embodied geography' that contests hegemonic, disembodied, masculinist geographies. I do this by focusing on pregnancy. Using spot observations, focus groups, individual interviews, indepth case-studies, a questionnaire and academic autobiography I conduct a study of the 'lived' geographies of 31 women who are pregnant for the first time and live in Hamilton, AotearoaiNew Zealand. Many of these women tended to withdraw from public places such as night clubs, bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes, and from public activities such as sport and paid employment during pregnancy. Two possible reasons for these pregnant women's withdrawal from public places during pregnancy are: first, that pregnant women are frequently popularly represented as being 'seeping', 'ugly', abject bodies who are not to be trusted in the public realms; and second, pregnant women are frequently represented as being emotional, irrational, and forgetful (read: 'hysterical') and, therefore, not to be trusted in public space. This study offers an example of new possibilities in geography. It is a geography that focuses on the corporeal thereby displacing the tendency to privilege the mind as the dominant term in the mind/body dualism. Focusing on the sexed body may provide feminist geographers with one more way of challenging masculinism and raising questions of sexual difference in geography.
University of Waikato
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