Affective Schemas, Gestational Incorporation, and Fetal-Maternal Touch: A Husserlian Inquiry

  • Nicole Miglio Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Keywords: Feminist Phenomenology, Pregnancy, Fetal-Maternal Encounter

Abstract

In this paper, I will argue that one’s participation in the experience of pregnancy is an essential part of the constitution of selves (maternal and fetal). Taking the radical notion of concrete essence as my point of departure in the first part of my paper, as well as the fundamental continuity between essences and facts proposed by Husserl (1913), I will briefly map out my proposal within the contemporary feminist debate. In particular, I will argue for re-framing the role of pregnancy, rejecting the idea of birth as an unattainable limit for human selfhood (Heinämaa, 2014), and defending two complementary theses: the experience of pregnancy essentially shape the self/other distinction; the continuity between our “pre” and “post” natal lives is primarily expressed through the embodied nature of the self. The core of my argument is this: everyone has taken part in the experience of pregnancy and, in doing so, their self-constitution and development have been shaped during this deeply transformative process. The implication is that the self has an essentially embodied origin which is closely connected to another self (the maternal subject); relationality, intersubjectivity, and affectivity turn out to be the grounding features in defining the self. Even though arguments about embodied aspect of the self have been widely discussed from several philosophical perspectives, there is a significant lack of phenomenological attention in this regard for the issue of pregnancy as the constitutive experience for self’s constitution. Conversely, the literature focused on maternal-fetal encounters, and on the process of pregnancy, tends to address unilaterally the experience of the maternal subject, and then to neglect the proper view of the fetus as pre-infant. When attention has been paid to the fetal perspective, the issues tackled are mostly bioethical. In this context, I offer an account of the complexity and non-linearity of fetal-maternal bodily encounters on a phenomenological level, putting forward a third alternative. In particular, I aim to show the intertwining of fetal and maternal perspectives, and to analyse and articulate philosophically the empirical fact that everyone has been a pre-infant. In the second part of my paper, I will take into account some essential structures that shape and constitute the process of pregnancy, as well as the actors involved – that is to say, the maternal subject and the fetal self. All in all, I aim, as a theoretical outcome of the paper, to build a phenomenology of pregnancy that contributes towards a rethinking of embodied selfhood from their origin. In this context, I offer a proposal of accounting for the complexity and non-linearity of fetal-maternal bodily encounters on a phenomenological level: my aim is to show the intertwining between fetal and maternal perspectives, as well as to eviscerate and articulate philosophically the empirical fact that everyone has been a pre-infant. In doing so, the theoretical outcome is to build a phenomenology of pregnancy that may actively contribute to the general movement of rethinking the embodied aspect of the self.In the second part of my paper, I will take into account some essential structures that shape and inform the experience of pregnancy, and also the actors involved, that is to say the maternal subject and the fetal self.

Published
2019-12-27
How to Cite
Miglio, N. (2019). Affective Schemas, Gestational Incorporation, and Fetal-Maternal Touch: A Husserlian Inquiry. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 12(36), 67-99. Retrieved from http://www.humanamente.eu/index.php/HM/article/view/299