My postdoctoral research project was entitled
“Natural Parenting in the Digital Age. At the Confluence of Mothering, Religion, Environmentalism and Technology”
It was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto was my main host institution during the completion of this research (2012-2016; with further collaborations), continued at the Université de Fribourg (2016-2017; Sciences des sociétés, des cultures et des religions).
Building on my previous research in the field of gender and religion, I explored from an interdisciplinary perspective the issue of “natural parenting,” with a focus on its contemporary material and digital expressions. I engaged with multiple theoretical and methodological frameworks, including the study of religions, anthropology, discourse analysis, media studies, motherhood studies, gender studies and food studies. This allowed me to provide a comprehensive analysis and better understanding of a particular type of parenting, some aspects of which have become increasingly popular and mediated in recent years.
For the purpose of this study, I defined natural parenting as a cluster of representations, discourses and practices relating to fertility, contraception, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, mothering/parenting, education, nutrition, health, ethics and other topics situated at the intersection of motherhood/mothering and LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) or LOVOS (lifestyles of voluntary simplicity). Not to be confused with the closely related “attachment parenting” (which is often constitutive of the mother work of the “mamans nature”), natural parenting is characterized by a persistent discourse that values “Nature” in its different forms, whether it is as the environment, the planet or the maternal body. In this regard, my work also borrowed from and contributed to the study of “dark green religion,” since it exposed the ways in which many parents consider some discourses and practices of environmentalism as a worldview and, sometimes, as a spirituality. The ways in which mothers and fathers practicing natural parenting relate to medical technologies (genetic testing, ultrasound, epidural, immunization, etc.), to communication technologies (use of websites, blogs, forums, social media), and to food technologies (production and consumption of GMO foods, organic food, etc.) were documented.
By focusing on francophone informants (mostly from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada), my work brought to the field of motherhood studies an original material for comparative purposes, as natural parenting has been received and has evolved in different ways in Francophone European contexts, in contrast with its mostly North American context of emergence. Parents account for their choices in culturally determined ways, and are especially pressured to do so in contexts where their practices (e.g. the choice of a planned homebirth) are still marginalized or caricatured in mainstream media.
Through my expertise as a scholar of religions, I addressed specifically the ritual and spiritual aspects of natural mothering and of parenting in general, with a strong interest in comparing historical and emerging forms of ritualization that center on women’s bodies. I documented and analyzed traditional and new rituals of pregnancy, birth and postpartum, mostly outside (or in spite of) the medical context (examples include: baby shower, blessing way, mother raising, gender-reveal party, pregnancy and breastfeeding photography, placentophagy, placenta planting or printing). I also considered objects of pregnancy relating to mothers through the lenses of material religion (belly cast, belly painting, pregnancy jewelry, bolas, birthing necklaces, push gifts, gender-reveal cakes and items, breastfeeding bracelets, etc.).
This project has resulted in several publications in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, some of which are provided in open access.