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The Politics of Adoption

The Politics of Adoption: Gender and the Making of French Citizenship

Bruno Perreau
translated by Deke Dusinberre
Series: Basic Bioethics
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Adoption
    Book Description:

    In May 2013, after months of controversy, France legalized same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples. Obstacles to adoption and parenting equality remain, however -- many of them in the form of cultural and political norms reflected and expressed in French adoption policies. InThe Politics of Adoption, Bruno Perreau describes the evolution of these policies. In the past thirty years, Perreau explains, political and intellectual life in France have been dominated by debates over how to preserve "Frenchness," and these debates have driven policy making. Adoption policies, he argues, link adoption to citizenship, reflecting and enforcing the postcolonial state's notions of parenthood, gender, and Frenchness. After reviewing the complex history of adoption, Perreau examines French political debates over adoption, noting, among other things, that intercountry adoptions stirred far less controversy than the difference between the sexes in an adopting couple. He also discusses judicial action on adoption; child welfare agencies as gatekeepers to parenthood (as defined by experts); the approval process from the viewpoints of social workers and applicants; and adoption's link to citizenship, and its use as a metaphor for belonging. Adopting a Foucaultian perspective, Perreau calls the biopolitics of adoption "pastoral": it manages the individual for the good of the collective "flock"; it considers itself outside politics; and it considers not so much the real behavior of individuals as an allegorical representation of them. His argument sheds new light on American debates on bioethics, identity, and citizenship.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32338-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Arthur Caplan

    I am pleased to present the forty-second book in the Basic Bioethics series. The series makes innovative works in bioethics available to a broad audience and introduces seminal scholarly manuscripts, state-of-the-art reference works, and textbooks. Topics engaged include the philosophy of medicine, advancing genetics and biotechnology, end-of-life care, health and social policy, and the empirical study of biomedical life. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged....

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxvi)

    On May 17, 2013, after several months of fierce debate in the media, in the streets, and in the legislature, France legalized same-sex marriage and entitled homosexual couples to adopt children jointly. A major watershed had apparently occurred: henceforth, French family law would ostensibly treat all citizens alike, with no distinction based on sex, gender, or sexuality. And yet equality still has a long way to go. Medically assisted procreation remains the preserve of heterosexual couples; surrogate motherhood, meanwhile, is still illegal. No measure, for that matter, insures the preservation of gametes of transsexuals prior to transition. Finally, heterosexual married...

  6. 1 The Multiple Meanings of Adoption
    (pp. 1-16)

    Adoption covers situations that have varied greatly from one culture and period to another. They range from the transfer of political power (during the Roman Empire) to the sharing of economic resources among neighbors (notarial adoption in the Middle Ages), to the passing on of personal property (the NapoleonicCode Civilof 1804), to an effort at national reconstruction (the adoption of orphaned minors after World War I), to the celebration of bonds of marriage or friendship (notably in the homosexual community), and, since the 1960s, to the establishment of a family (both through the priority given to adoption of...

  7. 2 The Legislative Arena
    (pp. 17-46)

    The history of adoption policies in France is surprisingly consistent in terms of the issues debated over the past sixty years or so. Despite profound changes in the institution of adoption, the questions that frequently resurface concern the imbalance of supply and demand,² the status of single women,³ and the relationship between children’s rights and the right to children.⁴ The only issue to emerge more recently has involved the international dimension, which began in the 1970s⁵ and expanded in the 1980s until it dominated the media almost entirely.⁶ And yet the political stakes of adoption were radically transformed by new...

  8. 3 The Jurisprudential Forum
    (pp. 47-72)

    Adoption brings into play a set of disparate institutions from child welfare agencies to the social services administration via regional governments, local courts, and administrative tribunals, all driven by very different—indeed, opposing—interests and modes of socialization and symbolic reward. These institutions converge in the world of jurisprudence where they test their visions of society. The courts thereby provide a vantage point from which the field of adoption can be surveyed. How do judges react in the face of newly emerging configurations of the family? Are they always explicit about the values that influence and underpin their rulings? How...

  9. 4 Administering Parenthood
    (pp. 73-96)

    The field of adoption includes players from varying backgrounds and careers: local and national administrative personnel, independent psychologists and psychiatrists, volunteers in humanitarian organizations, activists for parental causes, journalists, and so on. Adoption is nevertheless meticulously administered. Each player develops operational skills that become the yardstick of his or her professional recognition. In order to come to terms with situations involving uncertain matches of child to parent(s), these players tend to view—within their own sphere and according to their own constraints—adoption as “risky.” The concept of risk simultaneously justifies social intervention and sustains the ability to act. By...

  10. 5 What Approval Means
    (pp. 97-110)

    During the nineteenth century, Western societies sought to enhance surveillance of fringe groups by anticipating the danger represented by the latter.² They drew support from a new notion based on probability and abstraction, namely, risk.³ Similarly, adoption approval procedures assess parental practices that have not yet occurred; comparing an individual’s history against various behavioral archetypes leads to a deduction about who may or may not be a “good parent.” This process requires applicants for approval to presents themselves as individuals motivated by a coherent, controlled psychology. As Robert Castel has noted, “This is the foundation of a decomposition of the...

  11. 6 Children of the Nation
    (pp. 111-130)

    On a talk show calledMots Croisés(Crossword), broadcast on French television in May 2007, essayist Alain Finkielkraut—discussing the subject of national identity—claimed that France was not a “smorgasbord.” Referring to the obligations that went with “integration,” he stressed that people had to earn French nationality. Otherwise, the country would just be a cluttered table lacking its own specific culture. Finkielkraut then employed another metaphor: “France is not just a set of rights,” he claimed, “it is an adoptive country.” His use of the image of adoption shows that its influence extends beyond the roughly two thousand intercountry...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 131-134)

    The Politics of Adoptionis an invitation to question what makes a community, to shift the issue of biology from a perspective centered on the significance of vital ties to a critical analysis of technologies of power through which we conceive ourselvesasliving beings.² This approach implies abandonment of a belief in the predictability of social behavior and thus recognition of the ambivalence of community ties as simultaneously alienating and empowering.³ It suggests that the material nature of these ties still hinges, in today’s discourse, upon a set of unreal representations. In 1969 Michel Foucault wondered “how . ....

  13. Main Abbreviations
    (pp. 135-136)
  14. Chronology
    (pp. 137-140)
  15. Legal Forms of Adoption
    (pp. 141-144)
  16. Institutions
    (pp. 145-150)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 151-186)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 187-194)
  19. Index
    (pp. 195-208)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-210)