Emma Milne

University of Essex

Project Title: Infanticide and neonaticide: a feminist analysis of women who do not conform to the myth of motherhood.

The aim of my research is to construct a feminist theory of the social factors which motivate women to commit fatal abuse against their infants, by examining how these acts are understood and defined by professionals within the criminal prosecution service (CPS) and those who safeguard children. My research considers women’s fatal acts of violence against their own infants in contemporary England and Wales. The current crime of infanticide has been in force since 1938. It states that a woman will not be considered guilty of murder if she kills her own child within the first year of life, if at the time of the offence she was “disturbed of mind” due to not having recovered from the effects of giving birth. Instead she will be guilty of infanticide. However, it is clear from criminal prosecutions over the past ten years that there is considerable tension between the physical act of infanticide, the killing of an infant by its mother, and the criminal offence. Not all women’s acts of infanticide are considered to be a criminal offence of infanticide and the majority of women are tried and convicted of murder or manslaughter. It is within the context of this criminal judgement that my research seeks to examine the actions of violent women and the reactions and responses by professionals. My research explores gender theory; feminist theory of violence, focusing on violent women; social and cultural constructions of womanhood and motherhood; CPS and professional responses to violent women; and philosophy of crime and punishment.

Supervised by Dr Jackie Turton and Professor Pete Fussey.

About me

I joined the University of Essex as an undergraduate in 2007. During my undergraduate and masters degrees I studied social theory, gender theory and social and political history of Great Britain and Europe. My undergraduate dissertation analysed the impact of British women’s wartime work during World War Two on the social image of women, and my masters dissertation considered feminist research of rape during the 1970s and 1980s on the public understanding of the violent act. After a two year break from academia, I returned to Essex in October 2013 to complete my PhD.

Research Interests

Women as offenders Violent women Child protection Feminism Gender theory Medicalization of pregnancy, child birth and the postpartum period Motherhood Historical and legal development of filicide and infanticide Legal and professional responses to child abuse and filicide

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