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The Sovereignty of Mothers Lecture Series: The Mother's Two Bodies

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 5:00pm

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room
29 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

This lecture series with Columbia University Professor Gil Anidjar is sponsored by the Cornell University Lectures Committee as part of their Messenger Lecture Series and the Jewish Studies Program. 

Lecture 1: Mother and Slave

Monday, October 24, 2022 at 5pm in A.D. White House, Guerlac Room

“It takes a village.” We have all heard the common place, which may or may not derive from the proverbial African saying. We certainly know that it takes a whole lot of people, past and present, resources and support, for a child to become an adult. So what exactly is a village? And what does it take, if it takes a village, to become a mother? This lecture will draw on the history of slavery in order to revisit the biblical figures of Sarah and Hagar — the mother and the slave. Our aim is to explore the beginnings and the temporalities, the labor and the travails, the economics and the politics, in short, the motherings that are carried and hidden under the image we still hold of the one mother, not only the lone or single mother, but the one and unique mother, the singular mother in and of that plural and proverbial village. Hagar and monomaternalism.

Lecture 2: The Mother's Two Bodies

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 5pm in A.D. White House, Guerlac Room

In the first lecture, we encountered a doubling of the maternal function that involves a biological mother and juridical one, or a mother and a ‘de facto’ mother who does not count, a mother and a slave. We have encountered Sarah and Hagar, in other words. Ishmael had two mothers. He was not the only one and the fact that his case, and other instances of dual motherhood, has attracted so little attention speaks volumes. Or at least a lecture: about history and about psychoanalysis. About famous dual mothers, from Ishmael to Freud and beyond.

Lecture 3: The Sovereignty of Mothers

Thursday, October 27, 2022 at 5pm in Goldwin Smith Hall, G76 Lewis Auditorium

Political thought rarely begins with mothers. To be more precise, mothers, in politics and elsewhere, seem to be confined to beginnings. Hence the myth of the matriarchy. The operative lexicon, for the village or the polity, has oscillated between the patriarchal and the fraternal. In this concluding lecture, we shall conduct a different experiment, imagine a different social contract. For what might it mean to think the political neither as patriarchal or paternal, not as fraternal either, but as maternal? A maternal contract. 

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Society for the Humanities, Jewish Studies Program


cascal, jwstcal, relstcal, cashum, nescal

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Gil Anidjar

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Columbia University

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