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Little Strangers: International Adoption and American Kinship. A Review Essay

  • Jessaca Leinaweaver (a1)

In Victorian England, the phrase “little stranger” was used to refer to the unborn child one had not yet met. Though it has fallen out of use today, the expression is not inapt for describing the children who enter new families, new ethnic or cultural identities, new social classes, and new nations via international adoption. Over time, and through a series of social practices designed both to “kin” the child and parents, siblings, and other relatives and to explain the child's presence to an inquisitive public, the “little stranger” comes to be more or less incorporated and acculturated: less strange, more familiar. Because international adoption makes those processes visible through its very unfamiliarity and its recourse to legal and cultural strategies, it has become a centerpiece of recent writing on kinship, reproduction, and childhood (Yngvesson 2010; Marre and Briggs 2009; Kim 2010; Wade 2007; Howell 2006; Marre and Bestard 2004; Dorow 2006; Bowie 2004; Volkman 2005; Howell 2009; Leinaweaver and Seligmann 2009; Hübinette and Tigervall 2009; Briggs 2012).

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Laura Briggs . 2012. Somebody's Children: The Politics of Transnational and Transracial Adoption. Durham: Duke University Press.

Signe Howell . 2009. Adoption of the Unrelated Child: Some Challenges to the Anthropological Study of Kinship. Annual Review of Anthropology 38, 1: 149–66.

Tobias Hübinette and Carina Tigervall . 2009. To Be Non-White in a Colour-Blind Society: Conversations with Adoptees and Adoptive Parents in Sweden on Everyday Racism. Journal of Intercultural Studies 30, 4: 335–53.

Eleana J Kim . 2010. Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging. Durham: Duke University Press.

Jessaca Leinaweaver . 2011. Kinship Paths to and from the New Europe: A Unified Analysis of Peruvian Adoption and Migration. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 16, 2: 380400.

Jessaca Leinaweaver and Linda Seligmann . 2009. Introduction: Cultural and Political Economies of Transnational Adoption. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 14, 1: 119.

Diana Marre . 2007. “I Want Her to Learn Her Language and Maintain Her Culture”: Transnational Adoptive Families' Views of “Cultural Origins.” In P. Wade , ed., Race, Ethnicity and Nation: Perspectives from Kinship and Genetics. New York: Berghahn Books.

Diana Marre and Laura Briggs , eds. 2009. International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children. New York: New York University Press.

Linda Seligmann . 2009. The Cultural and Political Economies of Adoption in Andean Peru and the United States. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 14, 1: 115–39.

Toby Volkman , ed. 2005. Cultures of Transnational Adoption. Durham: Duke University Press.

Barbara Yngvesson . 2010. Belonging in an Adopted World: Race, Identity, and Transnational Adoption. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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