AfterFamily – a conversation across disciplines

In popular culture, the Family – in its nuclear or extended form - is considered a pillar of society and a central element of human existence, something often viewed as natural and necessary.

But what is a family? Who should – or should not – constitute one? In addition to these central questions, many others are raised every day, both in homes and in parliaments, in academia and in religious spaces: Are people having too many or not enough children? Should the State help people reproduce? Who should take care of children and how?

These questions come together in complex constellations with concepts such as gender, class, race, biology, as well as patriarchy, capitalism, culture and tradition, freedom and oppression. Given that the Family constitutes both the foundation for many people’s private lives and a key area of debate in public politics, discussions range across several disciplines, not limited to philosophy and ethics, law, economics, science and technology.

Please join us at our event AfterFamily, as we will have the pleasure to have author and theorist Sophie Lewis addressing maybe the most taboo of all these questions: Should we abolish the Family?

Following Lewis’ keynote, Asst. Prof. Maria Marti Castaner will give a talk on whether normative motherhood is harmful and Prof. Christina Lupton will present her research on the way first person writing speaks to the question of childcare.

AfterFamily is a one-day in-person event organized by researchers from the Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies (MEST) and the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies (Engerom) of UCPH. The event is sponsored by the VELUX Foundation and Engerom.


Time Activity
09:45-10:00 Arrival and coffee/tea
10:00-10:15 Welcome
Abolish Which Family? Care communization and the Black American family
Keynote by Sophie Lewis
11:00-11:30 Discussion and Q&A
11:30-12:30 Lunch break
Normative Motherhood is Making Us Sick
13:15-13:30 Break
Whose Got the Kids?
14:15-14:30 Closing remarks



Sophie Lewis is a writer and independent scholar living in Philadelphia. She is currently at work on a third book manuscript entitled Enemy Feminisms, forthcoming with Haymarket in February.

Her first two books, both published by Verso Books, are Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (2019) and Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation (2022). Sophie’s essays and articles appear in academic journals like Feminist Theory as well as literary ones like n+1, Harper’s, and the London Review of Books.

Sophie has a PhD in Geography at Manchester University, as well as an MA Politics from the New School, and a BA in English literature from Oxford University, which was followed by an MSc in Environmental Policy (also at Oxford).

Dr. Lewis teaches short courses on social and critical theory at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, open to all and online. She also has a visiting affiliation with the Center for Research on Feminist, Queer and Transgender Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. You can find her lectures and writings at, and become a subscriber at



Abolish Which Family? Care communization and the Black American family

Sophie Lewis 

For over two centuries, utopians of various stripes have raised the banner of the “abolition of the family”: the positive supersession of the capitalist privatization of care, including patriarchy’s prevalent mode of possessive maternalism. From the “phalansteries” of the first self-described “feminists” to the “red love” vision of the most radical Bolsheviks to the anti-imperialist lesbian-feminist efflorescence of the United States in the Long Sixties, radical movements have sought to denaturalize the institution of motherhood and imagine the communization of care.

But whose families (i.e., whose private nuclear households) are most at stake in this particular field of abolitionism? U.S. settler-colonialism and chattel slavery has involved both making and breaking kinship forms, while the institutions of marriage and custody, the combined and uneven mechanisms of family policing, foster-care, adoption, and so-called child welfare generally, remain deeply co-constitutive with white supremacy. How does this history frame present-day articulations of the politics of family abolitionism?

Whose Got the Kids?

Christina Lupton, University of Copenhagen.

This is a paper about the way first person writing speaks to the question of childcare.  In poststructuralist terms is almost a given that the first person can be used positively to activate new stances and positions in the world.  It is for this reason, as Eve Sedgwick asserts, that the term queer is best used in the first person.  But when the first person writer speaks of the children in his or her care, that performative has other less negative affordances. Where are the children as one writes? 

My examples range here, from recent texts by Olga Ravn, Ben Lerner, and Kate Zambreno, back to first person writing from the 1960s which approaches more directly this problem of labor that is raised by the text itself. The widest ambition of my argument is that we have lost in the recent turn to autofiction many of the original promises of life writing as a political form closely enmeshed in the politics of care.

Normative Motherhood is Making Us Sick

Maria Marti Castaner, University of Copenhagen

This paper argues that we will continue to misunderstand post-partum depression – both in the epistemological sense of misplacing its causes and explanation and in its therapeutic sense of ultimately failing to tackle it – if we don’t properly articulate how normative motherhood is essential to its etiology.

Based on the qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with nine women with lived experience of post-partum depression and health nurses in the Danish universal perinatal care program, we show how we cannot explain post-partum depression without normative motherhood.

We illustrate the ways in which normative motherhood is displayed and internalized in the everyday life of mothers and discuss whether maternal care can be re-designed free of normative pressures.



Participation is free of charge and open to all, but registration is preferred. You can register by writing to Andrea Bidoli.

Please contact the organizers Andrea Bidoli and Amanda Grimsbo Roswall with queries and comments.