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Cultures of Transnational Adoption by Toby Alice Volkman

Cultures of Transnational Adoption


Cultures of Transnational Adoption by Toby Alice Volkman

During the 1990s, the number of children adopted from poorer countries to the more affluent West grew exponentially. Close to 140,000 transnational adoptions occurred in the United States alone. While in an earlier era, adoption across borders was assumed to be straightforward-a child traveled to a new country and stayed there-by the late twentieth century, adoptees were expected to acquaint themselves with the countries of their birth and explore their multiple identities. Listservs, Web sites, and organizations creating international communities of adoptive parents and adoptees proliferated. With contributors including several adoptive parents, this unique collection looks at how transnational adoption creates and transforms cultures.The cultural experiences considered in this volume raise important questions about race and nation; about kinship, biology, and belonging; and about the politics of the sending and receiving nations. Several essayists explore the images and narratives related to transnational adoption. Others examine the recent preoccupation with roots and birth cultures. They describe a trip during which a group of Chilean adoptees and their Swedish parents traveled home to Chile, the culture camps attended by thousands of young-adult Korean adoptees whom South Korea is now eager to reclaim as overseas Koreans, and adopted children from China and their North American parents grappling with the question of what Chinese or Chinese American identity might mean. Essays on Korean birth mothers, Chinese parents who adopt children within China, and the circulation of children in Brazilian families reveal the complexities surrounding adoption within the so-called sending countries. Together, the contributors trace the new geographies of kinship and belonging created by transnational adoption. Contributors. Lisa Cartwright, Claudia Fonseca, Elizabeth Alice Honig, Kay Johnson, Laurel Kendall, Eleana Kim, Toby Alice Volkman, Barbara Yngvesson


This rich collection of essays brings the study of kinship into the realm of international politics, economics, media studies, and literature. It is ethnographically informed and while not attempting to be comprehensive in terms of geography, illustrates the benefits of taking a broadly anthropological, cultural approach to the rapidly changing world of child-circulation and international adoption. -- Fiona Bowie * Anthropological Quarterly * The book consists of Volkman's own interesting and timely introduction and eight additional well-written, imaginative and thought-provoking essays based by- and- large upon anthropological ethnographic research and animated by recent cultural studies perspectives. . . . The elegant theorizing and, in particular, the use of innovative concepts, such as that of `disidentification
and an

`intuited self
in the interpretation of their data, make this collection of essays compelling reading.

-- Barbara Ballis Lal * Ethnic and Racial Studies * [A] well-designed volume of essays. Cultures of Transnational Adoption does the important work of interrogating the permeable boundaries between personal and national identity as defined by kinship. . . . In compelling ways, the essays in Cultures of Transnational Adoption unsettle comfortable notions of home and homeland, speak to postmodernist notions of shifting identities, and demonstrate the power of adoption to reshape cultural and national landscapes of kinship. -- Carol J. Singley * Women's Studies Quarterly * This valuable collection offers an ethnographically rich, theoretically sophisticated, and engagingly written set of contributions to the interdisciplinary literature on transnational adoption. -Pauline Turner Strong, University of Texas, Austin This outstanding collection-a rich mix of analyses and first person accounts-offers insights into an under-reported aspect of globalization: the ever-increasing circulation of children around the globe through transnational adoption. The kinship relations created through such processes have taken a distinctly postmodern turn as adoptive families nurture rather than sever their new children's cultural connections to birth countries. All of this is greatly facilitated by the Internet, video technologies, and the creation of social worlds that underwrite these new forms of cultural making. -Faye Ginsburg, New York University

About the Author

Toby Alice Volkman is Deputy Provost at New School University. She is the author of Feasts of Honor: Ritual and Change in the Toraja Highlands.

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Book Info

Publication date

10th June 2005


Toby Alice Volkman

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Duke University Press


248 pages





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