Mom, Me, and the Maternal at Work

Roiyah Saltus, Solange Saltus

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Mom (Solange Saltus): Although my daughter Roiyah has invited me to take part in her studies for the last decade in increasingly more evident and visible ways, I have never really questioned my involvement. I have taken her offers as a challenge and a novel thing to do. She is more reflective and searching than me of my hinterworld, and so in preparing this chapter, I have indulged her questions and points of reflection in terms of my mothering and my involvement in her work. I can only do as I have always done and share as best as I can.

Daughter (Roiyah Saltus): My work in terms of performance is once removed. Once-removed is my very careful way of saying that although my research is rooted in the everyday rituals and practices of people and communities, and although the research outputs are increasingly creative, they remain crafted, captured, or performed by others. I work with dancers, actors, singers, visual artists, and storytellers who – in varying ways, and at times in no way – take my text-riddled findings and make something anew. I also work with my mom, Solange Saltus. Although our bodies were severed from each other over half a century ago, the umbilical connection remains a potent life-force. In this chapter, I am seeking to understand the power of a not entirely resolved and settled connection with my mother that has been such a source of refuge and inspiration during a pivotal period in my academic life. I am seeking to understand why I once hid our connection from colleagues, but not anymore. Thus, the chapter will focus on the maternal in and at work. I will locate in particular the interweaving of my academic biography as linked to my mother in two studies conducted over the last decade, and the role my mother played as researcher and research participant.

Interwoven into this will be the use and role of digital storytelling (DST), and the stories we produced. Rooted in a first-person reflective account, digital stories contain a voice-over, visual images and sections of text which position this methodology as multimodal (Kim 2016, 221). Since its inception three decades ago, this methodology has increasingly drawn on new digital
tools and different ways of storytelling, with the traditional DST format – 2 to 3-minute personal narrative interwoven around text, music, or other audio om, Me, and the Maternal at Work 55 output, and images – evolving in keeping with the ever-increasing diversity in storytelling and ongoing transformation of digital tools (Clarke and Adam 2012, 159; Davis 2011, 528; Austen et al 2018, 27). I will draw on (i) my mom’s two digital stories that emerged from the studies, the text of which she carefully crafted (ii) her written reflections and ongoing musing of being involved in the studies and (iii) my text of the digital story that I created (and my 13-year-old son produced) as part of developing this chapter story. My aim is to reveal the changing practice and presence of mothering from mother to daughter, and from the domestic sphere to professional life.

The chapter starts with a brief overview of the two studies – both of which incorporated digital story methodology. Framed by excerpts from our digital stories, the remaining chapter is divided into sections that explore the importance of biography and positionality, notions of mothering and their lasting impact, and the value and insights into the unsayable that emerged from
Mom’s story. The last section will discuss how working with my mother has shaped intimately both my academic and personal biography. Steered by my mom’s comments on drafts of this chapter that became part of our regular video calls, I am writing this chapter from my voice for the majority of the time (“I”, “My”, and “daughter”), and from my mother’s voice (“Mom” and infrequently her pet name “Mommy”), with excerpts from the digital stories described as “Mom’s story” and “Daughter’s story”.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMothering Performance
Subtitle of host publicationMaternal Action
EditorsLena Šimić, Emily Underwood-Lee
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1003231073
ISBN (Print)978-1000785128
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022


  • Mothering
  • Digital story telling
  • African -Caribbean diasporia
  • art-based research
  • motherhood
  • Intergenerational


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