The acquisition of new kinship significantly affects those from an adopted background. New kinship has a huge impact on the identity partially in western cultures; this is because in American culture kinship is defined by blood relation and this contradicts the adopter and adoptee relationship which revolves around the idea of social kinship (Carsten, 2007). This new information regarding direct blood relations between an adoptee and their birth parents creates a dynamic shift in how adoptees view themselves and how they interact with the world around them (Carsten, 2007).
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Moreover, acquisition of new kinship information is a complex issue. Firstly, acquisition is not always possible due to many factors like for example if the records have been sealed. However, when records can be viewed this new information comes with advantages and disadvantages attached to it for participants involved in adoption. Due to the wests custom of full custody of adoptees and the importance placed on biogenetic inherence in western culture, many adoptees have described the process as uncovering of secrets and providing a new openness to their life (Carsten, 2007). However, this the knowledge of an adopted child’s birthparents also has the potential to be a hugely destabilizing force in that individual’s life (Carsten, 2007).
Additionally, despite the advantages to new kinship information there is further disadvantages; as there is a notion that the choice to discover new kinship information is the choice between ‘blood’ kin and the adopted family. “Kinship knowledge is about identity in the context of relationships, so that choice between facts is also choice between relationships” (Carsten, 2007). Furthermore, the kinship from a social perspective and kinship from a biological standpoint is fine independently but when combined through adoption a “rather complex inter-twining of past, present, and future chronologies of kinship” ensures (Carsten, 2007).
Although, Carsten’s perspective can be seen to be a generalization; there is the potential for a successful integration of an adopted child’s social/legal parents and the child’s birth parents into said child’s life. An extemporary example of this integration is an ‘open adoption’; “the term open adoption refers to a continuum of options that enables birthparents and adoptive parents to have information about and communication with one another before or after placement of the child or at both time” (Siegel, 1993). There is a perception that traditional closed adoptions are ‘better’ because the child might battle with the priority of ‘blood’ over ‘social’ constructs in kinship. However, in a study discussed by Siegel participants reported that open adoption allowed for more ‘openness’. Participants were able to construct a relationship with their children’s birthparents enabling “them to answer more adequately their children’s questions about their origins” (Siegel, 1993). This ability ultimately influences the interplay between social parents and birth parents because the two have a concreate relationship.
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Furthermore, the concept of heteronormativity in adoption is the idea of a ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ family unit; this ideal reiterates the narrative of a heterosexual nuclear family equation. One critique of this family model is Louise Lamphere who urged researchers not to treat heteronormative kinship as an ideal type but as one possible configuration among many (Carsten, 2007). “Adoption literature often focuses on the idea of “chosen” family, suggesting that adoptive kinship helps to unmask normative assumptions of the family in general” (Carsten, 2007). In this way the transnational adoption disregards the new kinship critique of heteronormativity.
Despite this there are substantial cultural complexities in relation to transnational adoption as in the case of China-US adoption. “That the question of origins for China–U.S. adoptive families is a site of tensions between biological and socially chosen kinship and that these tensions are palpable in narratives of cultural heritage. The continued centrality of blood is still experienced in adoption in the gap between origins of the child and social desire (choice) of parents, which includes the desire for social intelligibility.” (Dorow. & Swiffen, 2009). This quote shows the complexities related to blood origins when they are connected to a culturally alien space.
Transnational adoptee of Sweden to a large degree have refigured kinship in their immediate adoptive families and their ‘blood’ relatives. Those spoken about in the examples shown have used separate and very different methods to gain a connection with their blood relatives and adopted family but both had similar intentions. Katarina attempted to connect to her blood relatives by physically connecting with her birth mother whilst Birgitta visited the hospital in which her birth mother died giving birth to her. Additionally, Katarina attempted to connect with her adopted mother through opting “for a form of delivery and of feeding her child that is evocative of her relationship with her adoptive mother (who neither gave birth to her nor was able to nurse her)” (Yngvesson, 2007). This is a significantly non-normative approach in the case of Katarina attempted at refiguring kinship with both her adoptive and biogenetic kin.
In addition, American adoptee parents who communicate their adoption experience on the internet are conceptualizing the process of transnational adoption according to Blasco. In his article, Blasco argues that the narratives provided by these parents revolved around the ‘restless and relentless’ quest for ‘the true self which is unique and individual, entirely different from anyone else and materialized the process significantly (Blasco, 2012). Blasco, is highly negative about the materialistic values imparted by such communication.
Additionally, it can be argued that photography of potential adoptees further trivializes the adoption experience. Cartright’s photography of potential adoptees is an important source of biological, cultural and medical information; as direct information provided by orphanages or the state have on many occasions been accused of manipulating information (Cartwright, 2003). Photographs on the other hand are a universally legible source of information that allow children to be categorised and organized (Cartwright, 2003). However, by categorizing and organizing adoptees, these photographs could be seen to devalue the process to the point that the adoption process becomes a shopping catalogue. This further distances the potential adoptive parents from their foreign national child whom they are already separated from by ethnicity.
The arrangement in south Korea impacted on the way in which interpay between the biological and social features of kinship as there is a new hybridity view of transnational Korean adoptees, which crisscrosses boundaries of received categories such as culture, nation, race and kinship, renders them as ambivalent figures, being both “family” (uri minjok) and “foreigners” (oegukin) (Kim, 2007). Many native Koreas see these returning adoptees as out of place in Korea; a feeling which is reciprocated by these returning Korean adoptees.
In conclusion, transnational adoption is a complex and multi faceted issue. The issue of priority of ‘blood’ over ‘social’ constructs in kinship and ethnicity is complicated further by the different nationality of the adoptive parents and the adopted child.
BLASCO, P.G.Y., 2012. ‘A wondrous adventure’: mutuality and individuality in Internet adoption narratives. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,18(2), pp.330-348.
Carsten, J., 2007. Constitutive knowledge: Tracing trajectories of information in new contexts of relatedness. Anthropological quarterly, 80(2), pp.403-426.
Cartwright, L., 2003. Photographs of” Waiting Children”: The Transnational Adoption Market. Social Text, 21(1), pp.83-109.
Dorow, S. and Swiffen, A., 2009. Blood and desire: The secret of heteronormativity in adoption narratives of culture. American Ethnologist,36(3), pp.563-573.
Kim, E., 2007. Our adoptee, our alien: Transnational adoptees as specters of foreignness and family in South Korea. Anthropological Quarterly, 80(2), pp.497-531
Siegel, D.H., 1993. Open adoption of infants: Adoptive parents’ perceptions of advantages and disadvantages. Social Work, 38(1), pp.15-23.
Yngvesson, B., 2007. Refiguring kinship in the space of adoption. Cadernos Pagu, (29), pp.111-138.