, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 253-270

The Embodied Chiasmic Relationship of Mother and Infant

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In this paper the very earliest relationship of mother and newborn will be described phenomenologically through an interlacing of Donald Winnicott's work on maternal holding with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's concepts of flesh and chiasm. Merleau-Ponty's thinking suggests that the holding relationship described by Winnicott is formed as much by the infant's holding of the mother as it is by mother's holding of her infant. Both flex and bend towards each other and inscribe each other yet retain their own particularity. Further specification and articulation of the lived body of both arises from the ongoing overlapping and sedimenting of past and current touches, movements, sounds, and sightings initiated internally and externally. Examples drawn from fieldwork and secondary sources will illustrate this ongoing embodied relationship.