CFA: Philosophy of Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood (SWIP UK annual conference)

In association with SWIP, BUMP & PHILBIRTH,

University of Southampton

Thursday 21st June – Friday 22nd June 2018

Conference aims

Although philosophers have explored some issues related to pregnancy, birth and early motherhood – most obviously abortion and the value and metaphysics of coming into existence – relatively little philosophical attention has been paid to pregnancy, birth and (early) motherhood themselves. These are remarkable omissions because pregnancy, birth and early motherhood raise many interesting and important philosophical problems in metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, feminism, the philosophy of science, and other areas.

Pregnancy is unlike anything else that a human being experiences. It involves the production of a new person through a deeply intimate process that can radically transform not only the pregnant person’s body, but also their understanding, values, and who and what they take themselves to be. Pregnancy is also the nucleus of a series of unique physiological processes surrounding reproduction: conception; pregnancy; birth; post-natal recovery and breastfeeding. These processes are of great significance for individuals and society. These are key aspects of human life that are under-investigated in philosophy and are often not dealt with adequately by existing ways of thinking, because they do not fit the paradigm of humans as discrete independent individuals with firm boundaries. In these unique physiological processes, the boundaries between human beings are blurred. This may require rethinking key conceptual schemes – or even how we understand human value. This conference will aim to address such issues.

Pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood inescapably involve issues of gender. Most people who undergo these physiological processes are women. Gender expectations contribute to how we understand the duties of pregnant women and mothers. However, not all persons who are pregnant, give birth, or lactate, identify as women or as mothers, and not all mothers experience pregnancy, birth, or lactation. The conference welcomes papers that address the concept of motherhood from a variety of perspectives, including the perspectives of those who have been pregnant but do not identify as mothers, perspectives of those who identify as mothers but have not been pregnant, and trans perspectives.

These issues are not just interesting and important in their own right, but are also relevant to public policy: pregnancy, birth and early motherhood are constant issues of public controversy and policy development. For this reason one of our keynote speakers will talk about policy during the conference. The conference will also host the SWIP annual general meeting and we will organise a practical advice panel on parenting and work-life balance in philosophy.

Invited speakers

Rebecca Schiller (Chief Executive at BirthRights – policy)

Barbara Katz Rothman (City University of New York Graduate Center – sociology)

Maggie Little (Georgetown – ethics)

Sarah LaChance Adams (University of Wisconsin – feminism)

Guy Rohrbaugh (Auburn University – metaphysics)

Elselijn Kingma (University of Southampton – philosophy of science)

Fiona Woollard (University of Southampton – epistemology)

Submission guidelines

For this conference we invite submissions on any topic related to the theme of the conference, broadly construed. We particularly encourage papers from underrepresented groups, but all are welcome. Please submit a 500 word abstract, suitable for presentation within around 30 minutes. Submissions should be prepared for anonymous review, be in Word or PDF format, and sent with the subject ‘SWIP2018’ to no later than Friday 16th February 2018. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, and title of your paper in the body of the email, and mark your abstract with the most relevant keywords provided below (as this will help us to structure the program into relevant panels). Notification will be sent out by the end of March 2018. We hope to be able to offer some funding for accepted speakers who are under-funded (e.g. students, unemployed, early career), pending grant applications.








Philosophy of science









Infant feeding



Antenatal care

Preconception care

Postnatal care

Trans issues

Mental health issues

Disability issues

Race issues

Class issues



Registration is not yet open, but will be required and is likely to cost £10 per day. We hope to be able to offer some bursaries to those in need of financial support.


Childcare and accessibility
The event is wheelchair accessible, as will be the dinner venue. Service animals are welcome. An induction loop can be made available. A quiet room can also be made available. Accessibility information about the lecture rooms can be found here:

The University Nursery is OFSTED-regulated and offers a limited number of places for children aged between four months and five years. Advance booking is required for this service and is made on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. If you would like further information about childcare options or about accessibility, please contact Tracy Storey at

We will seek to accommodate any requests we receive in advance.


Venue and travel
The conference will take place on the university’s Avenue Campus:

For information about how to get here, please visit:


The most convenient train station to travel to is Southampton Central, from which you can take a taxi to Avenue Campus (10-15 minutes). Southampton has a small airport, with connections to many other UK cities, and to some on the continent. If you will be travelling by air then a direct flight to Southampton, if available, would probably be your most convenient option. Alternatively, you could fly to Heathrow, Gatwick or London City. From Heathrow, you can either take the National Express bus all the way to Southampton (, or get a ‘RailAir’ ticket, which involves getting a coach to Woking or Reading station and catching the train from there to Southampton. You can check the schedule and buy tickets on the National Rail website ( From Gatwick or London City, you can take a train all the way to Southampton. Again, check the National Rail website for timetables and tickets.


There are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in Southampton, but we recommend booking early. Two decent hotels within walking distance of Avenue Campus are:


Conference support

This conference is part of the project ‘Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy’ (BUMP) that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under grant agreement number 679586. It is also organised by the project ‘Philosophy of Birth: Rethinking the origin from medical humanities’ (PHILBIRTH), which is funded by the Program for Research, Development and Innovation Oriented to Societal Challenges of the Ministry of Economy in Spain, under grant agreement number FFI2016-77755-R. The workshop organisers also gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Southampton Ethics Centre and the Society for Women in Philosophy UK. This conference will be organised in accordance with the SWIP-BPA good practice guidelines.

Any queries should be sent to the organiser, Suki Finn, at