Transracial Adoption: Love and Pain


In various social and political discourses, we hear that orphaned children need homes and love, and that children of the disenfranchised are being stolen (Briggs, 2012). In the spectrum of families forming between these situations, I ask what are the possibilities for loving relationships when individuals, from different cultures and ontological understandings, are positioned together to live as kin? Adoptive families can be subject to prejudice from prevailing discourses that privilege biological parenting. How complex relationships develop in oppressive social situations, across boundaries of race, personality, desire and trauma, is not often explored through research. This paper examines what is happening, both materially and emotionally, within families with transracially adopted children. I have undertaken qualitative field research in Australia and Ethiopia, and analysed the data academically and with a creative writing process. Intersubjective encounters may exceed language, so the analysis is framed by Karen Barad’s post-humanist notion of performativity (2003), to capture the multivocality and materiality of lived experiences. I present findings from seven case studies where boundaries, enhancements and limits to loving relationships are identified, including: parental desire, trauma,belonging and the narrative of ‘one big family,’ where nuclear family models are superseded. And, I interpret the pathos in a fictionalised account from one interview with the mother of a daughter adopted from the Pacific islands. Love appears in transracial adoptive families as fluid and tenuous and is not always successful, as boundaries between personal, social, material and discursive understandings are blurred.

Author Information
Michelle Anne Elmitt, University of Canberra, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: GLOBAL2017
Stream: Linguistics, Language and Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the GLOBAL2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon