The Department of Women’s & Gender Studies presents: Gender Out of Bounds “Marginalized Mothering

The Department of Women’s & Gender Studies presents: Gender Out of Bounds
“Marginalized Mothering: identity and visions of the future among low-income adolescent mothers from São Paulo, Brazil”
Alanna Rudzik, Ph.D., SUNY Oneonta Assistant Professor Anthropology
Thursday, November 30, 2017, 4-5:30pm, Milne Conference Room 318
Adolescent pregnancy is widely viewed as catastrophic for the lives of young women, their families and society in general. The
“moral panic” generated by public response to teenage mothering marginalizes the experiences of these young women as
mothers. However, research has shown that for some adolescents motherhood provides an opportunity for emotional
growth, positive changes in identity and increased ambition for the future. Negative views of self and hopelessness about the
future, commonly thought to result from adolescent pregnancy, may stem from the structural forces that predispose some
young women to early pregnancy in the first place. I will be discussing research conducted in the eastern zone periphery of
São Paulo, Brazil, a region characterized by high rates of violent crime and homicide, high infant mortality compared with
neighbourhoods in the same city, and low employment participation. From a larger sample of low‐income women, this
chapter focuses on the experience of 25 young women in their mid to late teens. In this analysis, my purpose is to explore
how the integration of a new maternal identity—shaped by the Brazilian cultural norms of “good motherhood”—with a young
woman’s previously existing identities might either lead to new aspirations, desires and ambitions for the future or to
hopelessness and despair, depending on the structural circumstances of the individual in question. The detailed, longitudinal
qualitative data gathered from this group of participants reveals how the construction of maternal identity and visions of the
future for adolescent mothers are shaped by both embodied experience of motherhood and pre‐existing structural forces.
Alanna Rudzik is a an assistant professor in the Anthropology department. Before coming to SUNY Oneonta, she
held an International Junior Research Fellowship at Durham University in the UK conducting research on maternal
perceptions of infant sleep and infant sleep biology. She obtained her PhD in anthropology from the University of
Massachusetts Amherst in 2010. Her doctoral research, conducted with women from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was a biocultural
analysis of breastfeeding outcomes among low‐income women.