Self-sacrificing mothers as revered deities of social policy initiatives: reflections on the Huastec mother goddess and conditional cash transfer programmes


  • Melissa Handl University of Ottawa, Canada


legal object, qualitative research methods, conditional cash transfers, reflexivity, ethics in research


This paper explains how an object – a sculpture of a Huastec goddess – has caused me to reflect differently on my doctoral dissertation work and how it has contributed to my research by helping to challenge and develop existing qualitative research methods used in my project. My research project investigates gender equality in the context of conditional cash transfers in Argentina in order to investigate whether they are empowering women. The sculpture of the Huastec Goddess has impacted on my research methods in different ways. Firstly, it has allowed me to emphasise the instrumentalisation of beneficiary women. Secondly, the Huastec sculpture has challenged my epistemological assumptions. Finally, the Huastec sculpture as an object moving from culture to culture and ending up in a museum as a collected artifact has encouraged me to think more carefully about the ethical implications of qualitative research.