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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Kathryn Jezer-Morton, Social and Cultural Analysis

Affective Strategies For The Containment and Commodification of Motherhood

Date & time
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This thesis proposes a theory of affective expertise, for understanding the affective maneuvers and strategies employed by influencers, and momfluencers specifically, as they work to earn income through their online personas. The basis of this form of expertise is located in the contradictions that momfluencers (and other influencers) must negotiate as they seek to commodify their private lives through the production of content for sharing platforms. To be forthright in the commodification of family life would represent a breach of social norms. One of the fundamental challenges that momfluencers (and other influencers) face, this thesis argues, is to make the selling of their images appear like spontaneous acts of self-expression rather than considered strategies meant to generate income. Affective expertise is the set of skills that content creators develop and rely upon to thread the needle between commerce and authenticity.

The subjects of this study belong to the broader creator economy, a precarious workforce that has emerged from the affordances of algorithmic sharing platforms including Instagram and TikTok. This study demonstrates how the working conditions experienced by creators operating under algorithmic managers are the backdrop for both the accumulation and deployment of affective expertise. The work of Deleuze, Hart and Negri, Duffy, and McRobbie lay the theoretical groundwork for the analysis of these labour conditions. Further, this study situates affective expertise within the broader context of biopolitical societies of control as defined by Foucault, Hardt and Negri, and Rabinow and Rose. Affective expertise can be understood as both an outcome of biopolitical subjectivity, and, ultimately, an attempt to recuperate agency within a matrix of constraints oriented around the reproduction of certain forms of life.

This study situates affective expertise as a form of lay expertise that functions outside any formal structures of credential or training. Although this expertise is deployed in the service of an audience, and can be measured in part by an audience's engagement with those who deploy it, I argue for its theorization as expertise rather than as entertainment or spectacle. Rather, affective expertise is an intricate negotiation between the competing and overlapping exigencies of biopolitical control, algorithmic managers, corporate or brand interests, and the imagined preferences of audiences.

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