The discursive construction of motherhood through digital interaction

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

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Abstract

This thesis presents a study of digital interactions from an online discussion forum for parents, Mumsnet Talk. It takes two threads from a larger corpus of 50 threads posted to this forum between April and September 2014 and subjects them to close discursive analysis. Taking a qualitative, emergent approach that is grounded in feminist poststructuralist theory, it explores the ways of being – or subject positions – that are made available through social practices – or discourses – to users of this discussion forum, who present themselves, by and large, as mothers. Based on detailed linguistic analysis, the findings of this study suggest that dominant discourses of gendered parenthood permeate the interactions analysed here. These discourses often position Mumsnet users in restricted, gendered subjectivities, for example as the primary caregiver, and exclusively in relation to children, even where they try to resist being positioned in this way. However, it is also found that Mumsnet users are able to draw on a range of resources, some of which are particular to this digital context, to resist such discourses, and negotiate ways of being that are innovative and sometimes subversive. Through the process of this research, a new approach to analysing discourses in digital contexts is developed. This approach may be particularly valuable for sociolinguists who wish to study digital contexts, or for scholars whose work is already focused on such contexts, who wish to take a more discursive and/or linguistic approach to their analysis.

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date2016

    Keywords

  • digital interactions, motherhood, discourses

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