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Lone motherhood as a category of practice

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Abstract

This paper offers a critical examination of the category ‘lone mother’, which tends to be viewed as an identity category by both ‘lay’ people and social scientists. This in turn leads to the category ‘lone mother’ becoming reified, while the socially constructed nature of it remains hidden. The aim of this paper is to find a way of analyzing the lives of lone mothers without making totalizing claims about these women as individuals, but at the same time without depoliticizing the category ‘lone mother’. I argue that adopting Young's (1995), concept of ‘serial collectivity’ in the study of lone motherhood would enable social scientists to avoid positing that ‘lone motherhood’ is a unified category or the basis of self-understanding, while at the same time being able to make pragmatic political claims regarding the inequalities that lone mothers face. Furthermore, this paper argues for studying ‘lone motherhood’ as a category of practice, focusing on how the category is defined, by whom, and to what ends, and the effects this has on the lives of ‘lone mothers’.

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