Labors of Love and Loss: Radical Acts of Human, Plant, and Nonhuman Mothering

Catherine Bruns's picture
Type of Call: 
Call for papers
May 31, 2022

As we enter year three of the global pandemic, it is clear that mothering is both essential and chronically undervalued. For the two editors of this special issue, we are among millions who are raising kin (human and nonhuman alike) in the Anthropocene. Who both worry desperately for what the future will look like, and who practice love and care in the face of crisis, extinction, contamination, aggression, and more. We are interested in taking seriously mothering and other forms of caregiving as radical acts of ecosurvival. We invite human animal collaborators to submit articles to this special issue to help us collectively think through the ways in which love, intimacy, mothering, caregiving, and/or kinmaking are practices of resistance or solidarity or world-making.

As feminist theorists have painstakingly noted over the years, mothering is perpetually ignored and devalued in both scholarship and western culture. And as ecofeminists such as Carol Adams have noted, the similarities between the treatment of women/minoritized others and nonhuman animals highlight the ways in which human liberation is intertwined with the care and recognition of nonhuman suffering. We propose this special issue not just as a corrective to the historical silencing of mother- experience(s) in the humanities. We suggest that the intimate, embodied, and relational dimensions of human entanglement with the nonhuman world can best be captured and understood by focusing on mothering and other forms of caregiving and kinmaking.

We especially seek submissions that engage the visceral, the embodied, and the disruptive dimensions of labor and mothering: the ways in which the pregnant body is both one and two at the same time; the otherworldliness of early motherhood; the monstrousness of the mother-body; the placenta as both a literal organ and yet a metaphor for birth, life, death, and thriving (e.g., topsoil as earth’s placenta); the emotional labor of bearing witness to suffering and grief as near constants; the disappearance of bodies and laboring bodies.

We are also interested in how we can pay attention to the role of plant mothers and nonhuman animal mothers and fungi mothers, among other types of caregiving and caretaking. We call for papers that engage the ways in which mothering, birthing, or embodied care are animal and plant acts, sites of (messy) possibility for seeing our human entanglement with the nonhuman world more fully. In line with the Journal of Ecohumanism’s aims, we seek work that wrestles with the ways in which changing definitions of ecological citizenship offer strategies for living and loving that hasten the end of the Capitalocene.

Potential topics:

  • Love as a political project (beyond species’ boundaries or kin-ties) 
  • Interspecies caregiving/Interspecies mothering 
  • Mothering/caregiving/love and/against capitalism
  • Transcorporeality and endangered species
  • Nonhuman animal mothering 
  • Plant mothering
  • Plant communication 
  • Sensuous engagement with nonhuman others
  • Indigenous and nonwestern approaches to mothering, kinship, caregiving 
  • Decolonizing mothering/kinship/caregiving
  • Emplaced and/or Out-of-place care (invasive plants, animals, monstrous bodies)
  • Grief and loss
  • Art as a space to queer boundaries between flora and fauna 
  • Folklore, Mythologies, and Oral Histories
  • Witchcraft and Witches