Cross-Cultural Approaches to Adoption

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Adoption

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Adoption

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Adoption

Synopsis

Adoption is currently subject to a great deal of media scrutiny. High-profile cases of international adoption via the internet and other unofficial routes, have drawn attention to the relative ease with which children can be obtained on the global circuit, and have brought about legislation which regulates the exchange of children within and between countries. However a scarcity of research into cross-cultural attitudes to child-rearing, and a wider lack of awareness of cultural difference in adoptive contexts, has meant that the assumptions underlying Western childcare policy are seldom examined or made explicit.These articles look at adoption practices from Africa, Oceania, Asia and Central America, including examples of societies in which children are routinely separated from their biological parents or passed through several foster families. Showing the range and flexibility of the child-rearing practices that approximate to the Western term 'adoption', they demonstrate the benefits of a cross-cultural appreciation of family life, and allow a broader understanding of the varied relationships that exist between children and adoptive parents.

Excerpt

The chapters presented in this volume were, for the most part, first presented at a panel on Cross-cultural Approaches to Adoption at the 2000 meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropologists in Krakow, Poland. As an anthropologist and an adoptive parent I wanted to place the culturally rather unusual attitudes to adoption and the 'natural family' that dominate in Britain, and in Western countries more generally, in a broader context. I was aware of other anthropologists who had adopted children, domestically, transracially and often internationally. All were active in promoting the cultural heritage and identity of their adopted children. I was also aware from living in Cameroon, Africa, that other cultures do things very differently. Growing up with your biological parents is not necessarily all that common, and may not even be considered desirable. Who are considered family and kin is also culturally variable. The call for papers produced a fascinating spread of work and depth of expertise on a wide range of societies in different parts of the world. Almost all the data is based on original fieldwork and an understanding of the issues 'on the ground', as they are interpreted and lived by ordinary people. Global factors, such as Western attitudes to the nuclear family and the market created by international adoptions are seen to impinge on many societies, and there is always a process of change and transformation in ideal and practice. Although most chapters focus on the circulation of children, adults too may be adopted, and there are examples of such practices and the rationale for them in some of the contributions.

I would like to thank the EASA publications committee, the editors at Routledge, and all those who have contributed to making this book such a valuable addition to the field of adoption and of kinship studies.

Fiona Bowie
Bristol, January 2004

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