Dr Siobhan Sweeney
Dr Siobhan Sweeney, supervised by Professor Lisa Young, is one of four doctoral students in psychology to graduate (in absentia) in April this year.
For her thesis Dr Sweeney investigated the maternal subjectivities of mothers returning to work after maternity leave, specifically mothers who were living in scarcely-resourced Cape Town communities in South Africa. In her thesis she argues that these particular mothers predominately employ an instrumental mothering discourse. She shows that the traditional subject position of the intensive mother – which is typically assumed to be the ‘good mother’ – is not a position available to these mothers due to their social circumstances and working role. Subsequently, material provision, the baby’s thriving and surviving body, finding substitute carers and maternal preoccupation are constructed as qualities of ‘good mothering’ in their talk. She argues however that this ‘good mother’ position is a precarious one that both these mothers and Dr Sweeney invest in to defend against feelings towards their babies and themselves as well as to deny (maternal) ambivalence in a problematic social system. In examining her thesis, one examiner had the following to say: “the thesis offers a novel and thorough account of maternal subjectivity in an under-researched population of mothers”. Another commented that “the research that informs this thesis is highly innovative” and that “(t)he thesis undoubtedly makes an important contribution to knowledge in this area. It is theoretically sophisticated, shows successful data collection in difficult circumstances and demonstrates fruitful analysis.”