Hovsepian, F. (2021). Being a woman without children: A heuristic inquiry [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

Heuristic methodology (Moustakas, 1990) was employed to explore the experiences and identities of women without children in relation to predominant discourses around womanhood and motherhood. The research was conducted in two phases: the researcher engaged in a process of self-search as a prelude to the participation of seven co-researchers, a mix of intentional and involuntarily childless women aged between 50 and 75. Individual depictions were created through a narrational technique of empathic explication, based on data produced from conversational interviews and historical material. A composite depiction was then created, illustrating an archetypal experiential journey unfolding from the position of female materiality and conveying key aspects of experience and processes of identity formation. The research findings reveal that embodied experiences of womanhood from the position of a woman without children demonstrate complex, diverse, and transpersonal experiences that challenge and surpass the boundaries of predominant conceptions of womanhood. In revealing the complexity of ‘choice’ and the plurality of experiences relating to nurturance and creativity, the study’s findings support the development of a feminist participatory perspective in working to deconstruct and reconceptualise essentialist conceptions pertaining to womanhood, and effectively challenge the widespread conflation of ‘woman’ with ‘mother’ in predominant discourses.





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