Seminar Series - 'Disgusting celebrities': Celebrity motherhood and the cultural politics of austerity

Date: 5 February 2014 Time: 12.30 - 2.00 p.m.

Venue: B.89 County South

Seminar Series

Dr Kim Allen, Education and Social Research Institute, MMU

'Disgusting celebrities': Celebrity motherhood and the cultural politics of austerity

In this seminar, I will present emerging thinking from an ESRC funded project on celebrity culture and young people's classed and gendered aspirations (, with Heather Mendick and Laura Harvey) to explore how the cultural and gender politics of austerity play out through the celebrity maternal body. Drawing on textual analysis of mediated representations of celebrity pregnancy and motherhood, public responses to this, as well as interview data with young people (aged 14-17) about celebrity culture, I will argue that a feminist and class analysis of celebrity motherhood allows us to identify and unpick the cultural scripts of femininity which characterise the present conjecture of austerity. As 'exemplary' mothers and cautionary tales respectively, I show how Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge), Kim Kardashian and Katie Price become vessels for (new and old) anxieties and fantasies around femininity, fertility, family, aspiration and class. Representing the symbolic fantasy figures and folk devils of austerity - the frugal 'housewife citizen' (Biressi and Nunn, 2013) and 'scrounger'/ welfare queen (Hancock 2004) - I argue that these celebrity mothers operate as figurative props that work in the service of particular regulatory norms and ideals. Mobilising an aesthetic and set of narratives that are distinctive to austerity, these figures of mediated celebrity maternity coincide and collude with the state's attack on welfare and accompanying shift towards deeply conservative ideologies of the family and gender relations. Drawing on Imogen Tyler's (2013) framework of social abjection and disgust, and Angela McRobbie's notion of 'visual media governmentality' (2013), I demonstrate how the celebrity maternal body is a central terrain upon which public narratives of austerity and their accompanying emergent subject positions are secured but also resisted.

Joint Seminar with the Department of Educational Research and the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Social Justice and Wellbeing in Education, Educational Research