Murderous Mothers and Mother Murderers
Special Conference Stream within The Evil, Women and the Feminine Project: 7th Global Meeting
Wednesday 6th May – Friday 8th May 2015
Call for Presentations:
While many stereotypes have changed over time in Western culture, the one of the Mother remains strong and unyielding. Rather than being viewed as a biological role, motherhood is often a social role with prescribed behaviours. Mothers are expected to be fiercely protective, warmly nurturing, selfless and competent. Given this discourse, it is not surprising that filicide, the murder of one’s children, is often viewed as the most monstrous of all acts. This form of murder is seen as the most taboo of all actions, a violation of both the trust and expectations of the victim and also of normative society.
The theme of filicide is seen in ancient myth, literature and modern media. Maternal filicide, which can include infanticide and neonaticide, is always portrayed as shocking. Cases in the US, such as Casey Anthony, Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, grabbed international headlines but similar occurrences happen in all countries around the world. Many reasons are cited, from revenge to depression, and insufficient bonding to insanity. In mythology, one can point to Medea, portrayed as the most selfish and vengeful mothers in mythology. Whilst it is often evil stepmothers, as in the many versions of Snow White, that have murderous intentions against their children, cinematic narratives such as Shutter Island, The Mist and even the seminal The Omen, show that trying to kill one’s own offspring, no matter how monstrous they are, is unacceptable. Whatever the reason, the perpetrator can only ever be configured as implicitly monstrous and, on some level, even if only temporarily, evil.
On the flip side of this, violating the almost sacrosanct position of a Mother, is matricide. Interestingly here, the male offspring is quoted as the most common perpetrator. Mythology knows of Orestes, one of the most famous matricidal sons in literature, is driven mad by the furies as punishment. Popular culture features Norman Bates, of Psycho fame, who undoes the murder of his mother by becoming her. Jax Teller and Tony Soprano show the wide variety of ways matricidal characters can be portrayed and the varying motivations behind matricide, such as revenge, obsession, madness, etc. Edmund Kemper and Henry Lee Lucas showed that even the mothers of serial killers aren’t safe from them. One can also point to more complex cases, namely Nero and Anthony Baekeland, who allegedly reacted against their incestuous mothers. Adam Lanza’s case was far more intricate, and society’s response to their cases have been equally ambiguous. These victims have been viewed as having some degree of culpability in their own deaths. Despite this however, matricide, in particular, has also been the focus of modern comedy films, including Throw Momma from the Train and Mini’s First Time.
Against these few examples, it is interesting to investigate the female perpetrators of matricide. Apart from contemporary case studies recorded in courts and on the pages of psychiatric files, one can quote popular culture examples, such as Lizzie Borden’s case, which has made her an infamous celebrity and engendered many interesting investigative theories during the legal proceedings; or Carrie White’s cinematic matricide, seen as an almost necessary release from psychotic imprisonment. Are there any special means and ways that need to be used to study and treat this form of femicide?
Topics for possible presentations include:
- Matricide, maternal filicide: case studies from around the world
- History/origins of matricide and filicide; victims and perpetrators
- Classifications of filicide, i.e. Phillip Resnick’s typology (alruistic, psychotic,unwanted, accidental, spouse revenge filicide, etc), its continuations and transformations
- The causes of matricide: psychiatric, social, religious
- Genderisation of filicide and matricide
- Femicide: i.e., daughters killing mothers; women killing (pregnant) women
- Methods of prevention of matricide and maternal filicide
- The fathers’/husbands’ presence/involvement in cases of matricide and filicide
- Therapy and re-socialisation in cases of filicide and matricide
- Matricide and maternal filicide in myth and literature across culture
The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.
What to Send:
300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday 13th March 2015. All submissions are at least double blind peer reviewed. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: EWF7 Mothers Proposal Submission.
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
The conference is part of the At the Interface programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.
Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.
Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.