Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Kinning: The Creation of Life Trajectories in Transnational Adoptive Families

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Kinning: The Creation of Life Trajectories in Transnational Adoptive Families

Article excerpt

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A partir d'observations empiriques faites dans le cadre d'une etude de l'adoption transnationale en Norvege, l'auteur formule des arguments en faveur du concept de kinning (creation de liens de parente). Cette notion designe le processus par lequel le fcetus, le nouveau-ne ou toute personne non apparentee jusqu'alors entre dans une relation permanente et significative exprimee par l'idiome de la parente. En se concentrant sur I'adoption dans un contexte culturel ou la metaphore des "liens du sang" est fondamentale dans les relations de parente, l'auteur pointe les ambiguites et les contradictions de la relation entre parentes biologique et sociale. Les questions de race et d'appartenance ethnique peuvent des lors etre posees au cheminement de creation de liens de parente que suivent les parents adoptifs, dont l'auteur pense qu'il implique une transsubstantiation de l'enfant adopte.

Despite the strong desire to be a 'normal family', families with transnationally adopted children always remain different in some sense. To obtain a child, and to create a family, is so demanding that those who succeed learn a lot about themselves in the process. (Norwegian mother of a daughter adopted from Colombia)

Due to a sharp decline in the number of Norwegian-born babies being made available for adoption, transnational adoption has become, since the late 1960s, an increasingly popular means for involuntarily infertile couples to create a Family. Despite advances in new reproductive technologies, the volume of adoption of children from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and former Soviet bloc countries is steadily growing. As a social practice, adoption has received surprisingly little attention from anthropologists, yet it goes to the very root of what we take to be kinship, and can throw new light on established questions concerning the nature of relatedness. For the past four years, 1 have been studying transnational adoption in Norway, using a number of different sources and networks. (1) My main interest has been to treat adoption as a means to throw new light on cultural values concerning procreation, reproduction, family, kinship, children, and the perceived relationship between biogenetic and social relatedness. On the basis of this, I argue in this article for an unexplored aspect of kinship studies which I call 'kinning'. By kinning, I mean the process by which a foetus or new-born child (or a previously unconnected person) is brought into a significant and permanent relationship with a group of people that is expressed in a kin idiom. I wish to suggest that to kin is a universal process, marked in all societies by various rites of passage that ensure kinned subjectivation (see below), but that it has not generally been recognized as such. Because transnational adoption in Norway today is such a public practice, taking place in a cultural climate that predicates kinship on biogenetic connectedness, and because adoptive parents engage so deliberately in transcending the fact that they are not biologically connected to their children, my attention was led towards this previously 'hidden' aspect of kinship. Through a process of kinning, which, I shall argue, involves what I call a transubstantiation of the children's essence, adoptive parents enrol their adopted children into a kinned trajectory that overlaps their own. Issues pertaining to time and place as well as bodies become central in this process. It is a process which, in most cases, is fraught with tensions, ambiguities, ambivalences, and contradictions, not least because the parents are faced with the dilemma of incorporating the child into their own kin group at the same time as they must acknowledge the existence of unknown biological relatives.

I am concerned here primarily with the efforts engaged in by adoptive parents to make their adopted child into a relative. I do not focus directly upon the processes through which adoptees make themselves into persons that take account of their radically changed circumstances. …

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