Lisa Baraitser has been involved in the development of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck since 2005. Her first degree was in Medical Science and Psychology, followed by a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and a PhD in Psychology. Between 1995 and 2005 she trained as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, and worked in a range of mental health settings, thinking through the psychological ramifications of violence, abuse and poverty in the lives of women. Since taking up an academic position, her research has been in psychoanalytic and psychosocial theories, particularly their intersections with theories of gender and sexuality, motherhood and the maternal, and with philosophies of ethics, affects, materiality, temporality and event.
One major strand of her research has focused on the fraught relations, as well as creative tensions, between motherhood, female subjectivities and ethics. She is interested in different ways of understanding the conjunction ‘maternal ethics’, especially what ‘mothering’ does to our concepts of care, labour and subjectivity if we strip normative and idealised figurations out of mothering itself. How, in other words, might we think about maternal subjectivity as an utterly new position of experience, one that goes on to challenge and deform our understandings of singularity and relatedness, ethics and care, encounter and event? She draws on debates in contemporary psychoanalysis, feminist and social theory to rethink maternal subjectivities. Baraitser is also interested in the use of autobiographical writing, anecdote, and other literary forms as ways of generating theory. Her monograph entitled Maternal Encounters: The Ethics of Interruption (Routledge, 2009) draws this work together. It was the winner of the 2009 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association book prize.
Her more recent maternal research focuses on what happens when mothering ‘erupts’ into the public sphere, prompting us to think about the public anew. She is working on a co-authored book and a series of papers that develop the idea of ‘maternal publics’ and the place of ‘birth’ in contemporary culture in collaboration with Professor Imogen Tyler at the University of Lancaster.
She runs an international interdisciplinary research network – Mapping Maternal Subjectivities, Identities and Ethics (MaMSIE) – which organizes events and publishes a scholarly online journal, Studies in the Maternal, in collaboration with Sigal Spigel at the University of Cambridge.
A second area of Baraitser's research focuses on the psychosocial, particularly its epistemological and methodological dimensions. This includes work on the relation between psychoanalysis as a theoretical and clinical practice, and debates on affect, emotions, ethics, temporality, performance and the emerging discipline of psychosocial studies itself.
Her current research is on gender and temporality. Specifically, time that fails to unfold, and the place of various forms of ‘stuck’ or suspended time that play out in relation to the more and more ‘qualified’ time of work. Non-developmental time has been recently discussed in queer literature that works against normative accounts of the way a life might unfold in predicable ways over time. Her current project, funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation (Time Without Qualities) extends this work by examining temporal tropes such as waiting, staying, delay, maintenance and endurance in relation to a range of durational practices and social projects (psychoanalysis, mothering, care, incarceration, activism) in a bid to understand affective survival in late liberal conditions.
She recently secured a Seed Award from the Wellcome Trust and the Institutional Strategic Support Fund to develop a project with Dr. Laura Salisbury (Medical Humanities and English, University of Exeter) on temporality and care in health contexts (mental health, the GP encounter, and end of life care).