Eleanor Staples

My doctoral research used Irigaray’s theories on sacrifice to examine how ‘mother-work’ is socially and culturally devalued as expressed by contemporary social policy. I passed my viva voce in May 2013 and I am working on some corrections which are due this November. I’m also waiting for term to start at the University of Bristol, where I will undertake teaching for the first time (I will be teaching undergraduate courses in jurisprudence and land law). As for the future, who knows! I’m considering an academic career and I hope to publish some work in 2014, using Irigaray’s theory of maternal sacrifice in a jurisprudential analysis of UK shared parental leave legislation. I’m also interested in looking at how the notion of political love could be incorporated into social policy making in the UK.

I found the seminar incredibly enriching, aside from gaining so much from Luce Irigaray herself, one of the most amazing aspects of the seminar was forming friendships with the other participants.  However, it was also a challenging week and it took me a while to recover.  It was much more emotionally taxing than I had expected, and afterwards I felt the need to temporarily reject academia, taking a year out of my PhD to work for a charity. On reflection, the year away from full time education provided me with the resilience, sense of perspective and strong sense of self that I needed to complete a strong and original doctoral thesis. There is no doubt that the seminar was one of the most important experiences of my life – both academically and personally.

Interestingly, the seminar prompted me to ‘return’ to the law rather than taking the more sociological route I had planned to tread. My educational background is mixed: I was an English Literature undergraduate before I undertook a qualifying law degree, completed a social science Masters and ended up as a law PhD candidate. Although ‘interdisiplinarity’ is the buzz-word of contemporary higher education, the reality of my varied academic experience has been one of intellectual isolation. At times I have been frustrated with the way that the confines of legal study are tighter and more definitively drawn than other areas of arts and humanities research. However, the seminar invigorated my curiosity about the practical and tangible uses of law reform in line with the kind of utopian visions which Irigaray, and others, elaborate upon. In other words the seminar reconfirmed the importance of the reconstructive potential of the law and provided me with a much needed academic anchor which I will help me develop my academic career.

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