GWNZ Fellowships, 2021 - 2022

Rachel Williamson

Rachel Williamson PhD University of Canterbury

While mothers have long pervaded cultural texts, such articulations have traditionally been very limited. Indeed, representations of mothers have tended to be either blurred, faceless and perpetually in the background or constructed in narrow binary terms that pit good mothers against much-maligned, so-called bad ones.   

My doctoral study looks at the recent proliferation of visual and literary texts by and about motherhood that seek to speak back to this restrictive representational history by instead publicizing embodied maternal experience and, in doing so, foregrounding maternal subjectivity. While my PhD thesis is specific to representations of maternity, in light of the long-standing conflation of culturally condoned femininity with motherhood, my hope is that my analysis has application beyond mothers in particular, to benefit women in Aotearoa more generally.   

For three years of my study, I was the recipient of a University of Canterbury Doctoral Scholarship and various sections of my thesis have already appeared as journal articles or book chapters. I am currently in the final stages of drafting and editing my research with the long-term goal of developing it into an academic book. I have taught in a number of secondary and tertiary institutions and am a senior trainer for a national domestic violence specialist agency. I am also a mother myself. My combined roles have reiterated to me the importance of ensuring women’s voices and experiences are heard and advocated for in a variety of public and civic spaces, as well as cultural texts and representational forms.   

I am enormously honoured to be a recipient of a GWNZ Fellowship, which has come at such an invaluable time in my PhD journey. I look forward to becoming more involved with the Network and am very grateful for the support.