Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas

By Onusko, James | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas


Onusko, James, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Karen Dubinsky, Babies Without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 204 pp. Paper. $21.95. ISBN 978-1-4426- 1019-4.

The history of adoption in the Americas remains a relatively unexplored topic in the broader study of childhood. With the increased media exposure to celebrity adoptions in North America, it is likely to become an increasingly popular subject for academics. With her latest book, Karen Dubinsky, a professor at Queen's University in Kingston, has made a valuable contribution to this important part of the history of childhood.

Dubinsky identifies as an adoptive mother of a child from Guatemala. She is candid and forthright in explaining that this book was written in order for her to make better sense of the intricacies and contradictions of contemporary adoption and the broader, international politics of childhood (p. 128). She also explains that her project is centred on moving understandings of interracial and international adoption beyond what she sees as a false dichotomy of kidnap versus rescue (p. 3). Dubinsky emphasises that 'humanitarianism' is not the exclusive lens for analysing these adoptions. She contextualises her more specific topic of international adoption with excellent critical historiography of 'the child' and 'childhood'. She correctly views the historic symbolism of children, more often than not as representative bearers, instead of makers, of social meaning. She is careful to reinforce that while the 'child' is symbolic, there is a flesh and blood child that must not be discounted in any analysis. Hers is not a limited focus only on the discursive, but also on the everyday happenings related to adoption.

The book is organised into five chapters. …

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