Claiming Others

Claiming Others: Transracial Adoption and National Belonging

Mark C. Jerng
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsvsk
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  • Book Info
    Claiming Others
    Book Description:

    Transracial adoption has recently become a hotly contested subject of contemporary and critical concern, with scholars across the disciplines working to unravel its complex implications. In Claiming Others, Mark C. Jerng traces the practice of adoption to the early nineteenth century, revealing its surprising centrality to American literature, law, and social thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7516-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction Transracial Adoption and the Reproduction of Personhood
    (pp. vii-xliv)

    Adoption as an act that severs all legal ties between a child and its biological parents is a fairly recent legal concept. The 1851 Massachusetts statute that formed the precedent and basis for our modern understanding of adoption specifically broke from English jurisprudence, which held the child–biological parent bond inalienable “by any act of the parents themselves”¹ and “prohibited the absolute, permanent, and voluntary transfer of parental power to third persons.”² While this legal statute was passed with surprisingly little comment at the time, its effects have been far-reaching. Legally, this construction of adoption would gain legitimacy through the...

  4. I. ON THE BORDERS OF KINSHIP
    • 1 COMPETING LOGICS OF POSSESSION Unredeemed Captives in the 1820s
      (pp. 3-44)

      In a chapter entitled “Distresses of a Frontier Man,” J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur alternates between romanticizing the nature and simplicity of life with the Indians and fearing the dangers of being incorporated into Indian life. Fascinated by the figure of the settler who is captured by Indians and refuses to return to colonial or frontier society, Crevecoeur pronounces with astonishment:

      By what power does it come to pass that children who have been adopted when young among these people can never be prevailed on to readopt European manners? Many an anxious parent have I seen last war who...

    • 2 UNMANAGEABLE ATTACHMENTS Slavery, Abolition, and the Transformation of Kinship
      (pp. 45-84)

      In 1858, just three years before the start of the Civil War, Lydia Maria Child published a short story in theAtlantic Monthly, titled “Loo Loo,” which already anticipated the difficulties in defining and realizing freedom for former slaves after the Civil War. In this story, a northern man named Alfred Noble purchases a slave child, Loo Loo, out of the South and adopts her, ostensibly giving her freedom. In doing so, though, he uneasily “supplies the place of her father.”¹ Uneasily, because Alfred does not know how or where to place her, how she will be related to him:...

    • 3 THE CHARACTER OF RACE Individuation and the Institutionalization of Adoption
      (pp. 85-122)

      Though William Faulkner and Charles Chesnutt are not known for engaging with the social history of adoption, both authors describe adoption procedures in their fiction at a time when adoption was just starting to develop as a prevalent institutional practice. Moreover, they specifically address the intersection of adoption and racial formations. Donald Glover asks in Chesnutt’sThe Quarry, “Am I not still a Negro?” when he finds out about his adoption; Joe Christmas’s famous line about the possibility of being part-Negro in Faulkner’sLight in August—“If I’m not, damned if I haven’t wasted a lot of time”—follows his...

  5. II. BETWEEN RIGHTS AND NEEDS
    • 4 THE RIGHT TO BELONG Legal Norms, Cultural Origins, and Adoptee Identity
      (pp. 125-167)

      In the 1950s, a powerful sentimental rationale began to promote transracial and transnational adoptions. This reasoning combined a Christian religious sensibility of hospitality and “God’s family” (much like frameworks used by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Loring Brace to different effect) and a political narrative of post–World War II U.S. humanitarianism and civilization. As early as 1949, Helen Doss writes of her family of twelve adopted children, most of whom were of nonwhite backgrounds, “We are more than an ‘international family.’ Our home, with its strong ties of mutual understanding and love, is symbolic of that most inclusive family...

    • 5 RESISTING RECOGNITION Narrating Transracial Adoptees as Subjects
      (pp. 168-208)

      An adoption story lies at the heart of Chang-rae Lee’s 1999 novel,A Gesture Life. Embedded within a narrative that deals with such politically charged subjects as “comfort women,”¹ Japanese colonization, and war trauma, the protagonist and narrator, Doc Hata, recounts his struggles as an adoptive parent of a mixed Korean girl named Sunny. But far from being a secondary consideration, a subplot, or even a domestic version of these “larger” issues of racial and national politics, the adoption story provides a crucial angle on the identificatory politics of race, nation, and kinship in the novel as well as a...

    • 6 MAKING FAMILY “LOOK LIKE REAL” Transracial Adoption and the Challenge to Family
      (pp. 209-244)

      If the world is undergoing an “adoption revolution” that purportedly challenges the biological norms of personhood, it is simultaneously experiencing what Janet Beizer calls an “equally powerful move to readmit biology, genealogy, and genetics into the adoption picture.”¹ According to an article in theNew Yorker, genealogy is second only to pornography as the most searched-for subject on the web.² The recent craze over DNA tests, from the discovery that James Watson was 16 percent African to the finding of a “risk-taking” gene, have recentered biology and genetics as primary ways of thinking about who we are.³ This development is...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 245-248)
  7. Notes
    (pp. 249-292)
  8. Index
    (pp. 293-306)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)