Belonging in an Adopted World: Race, identity and transnational adoption, Barbara Yngvesson University of Chicago Press 2010 246 pages 13.50[pounds sterling]
Barbara Yngvesson has long been one of the most interesting writers on international (here transnational) adoption and its complexities. In this volume, she explores the themes of belonging and identity in a typically wide-ranging way. As befits an anthropologist (but one who also draws on her experiences as an adoptive mother in an open adoption), Yngvesson offers a rich ethnographic account of this terrain rather than any structured research study, drawing on a range of discussions and activities over a number of years. The nexus of the work revolves primarily around transnational adoptions in Sweden, while the main 'sending' countries featured are India and Ethiopia, although there are also briefer references to Korea and South American countries such as Colombia and Chile.
A key thread for much of the book is examining the nature of the 'real' in terms of relationships and belonging, set alongside the 'as if quality of adoptive families (and nations). Yngvesson explores the nature of identity as a 'safehouse', which is as compelling as it is elusive. In the early chapters, she focuses particularly on adoptions from India to Sweden, tracing the organisational and personal relationships that facilitated this. The account will appeal particularly to historians of (transnational) adoption, but Yngvesson also weaves in some interesting theoretical discussion on the social circumstances of 'abandonment' and how the attachment of 'value' to children in India sparked by adoption led to wider domestic child welfare developments.
Having focused on sending countries, Yngvesson switches her attention to Sweden as a receiving country, examining how both adoptive parents and wider policy frameworks deal with difference. The challenges of identity in transnational adoption and its juxtaposition with immigrant statuses and groups are usefully highlighted. A particular strength of her writing is that she is able to range from the intrapsychic (especially the power of fantasy and...