‘Narrating Choice, Narrating Vocation: Motherhood, Voluntary Childlessness and Christianity’ – CRPL Seminar, March’19

On the 14th March 2019, Dr. Dawn Llewellyn will present her paper, ‘Narrating Choice, Narrating Vocation: Motherhood, Voluntary Childlessness and Christianity’ for the Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds. Dr Llewellyn is Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies and Deputy Director of the Institute of Gender Studies at the University of Chester. 


Based on qualitative in depth interviews with Christian women, this paper lays out the primary personal, social, and institutional factors that women take into account when they are deciding to become mothers, or choosing childlessness. Extant scholarship has tended to analyse motherhood and childlessness separately, and generally women’s (and couples’) reasons for voluntary childlessness have been given more attention (see for example, Basten, 2009; Edwards 2015; Petersen, 2015; Shapiro, 2014). In a clear departure from this approach, I intentionally focuses on how Christian women share similar motivations for their respective choices to highlight the commonalities between mothers and the voluntary childless; women who are usually placed in opposition. In the interviews, participants’ narratives of choice frame reproductive agency as an interpretation of vocation and God’s calling that assesses existing family commitments; environmental ethics; desire and longing; lifestyle; risk; the influence of friends, family, and acquaintances; relationship with partners; marital status; and financial concerns. This paper also highlights how women navigate the conflicts that emerge when the factors shaping choice are often in conflict with their faith community and broader reproductive norms.

This event will take place in Botany House (Room 1.03) between 11.30am-1pm on the 14th March at the University of Leeds. Please contact CRPL Intern – Hollie Gowan – at jh09hgg@leeds.ac.uk  if you have any questions.

Image Credit: clio1789 @Flickr 

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