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Authors: Nickel, Mary
Advisors: Gregory, Eric
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: feminist theory
Subjects: Religion
Political science
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: It can be quite striking, on reflection, to consider the fact that nearly the first entire year of our lives are spent inside another human being. None of us is created ex nihilo: we are all forged within the crucible of another. It would behoove theorists and ethicists to concentrate on this undertheorized phase in human life. “Matrices: Pregnancy, piety, and the social constitution of human agency” thus foregrounds pregnancy and early motherhood to enrich our understanding of human responsibility and social obligation. Pregnancy, I argue, reveals the social constitution of persons and yet it also puts their discreteness into sharp relief.Pregnancy can be deeply theoretically generative. On the one hand, pregnancy is unique, as only a subset of humans can experience and perform it; on the other hand, it is also universal, insofar as every single human is a product of a pregnancy. Moreover, even as pregnancy unites persons—childbearers, coparents, relatives, healthcare workers—it also powerfully demonstrates the fundamental separateness of persons. After all, no one else can endure morning sickness, insomnia, or labor on the pregnant person’s behalf. At the same time, it also complicates that separateness, given that, in pregnancy, the boundaries of the childbearer and her child’s respective personhoods are difficult to draw. The dissertation identifies five lessons pregnancy teaches. First, it highlights the ways human social cooperation extends over time and necessitates human expectations. Second, it shows how humans are both interdependent and discrete, and that these characteristics are not merely to be counterbalanced but may be mutually reinforcing. Third, the dissertation focuses on the dissimilar sexed embodiment of human beings and what that means for the realization of gender justice. Fourth, it underscores the role communities play in childrearing and the ways socialization can be an important contributor to autonomy competency. Fifth, and finally, the dissertation concentrates on what we owe to our proximate and ultimate sources of being—often theorized as the virtue of piety. It examines past thinkers’ views of piety and presents a view which includes critical piety, which criticizes those sources that form us in condemnable ways.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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