The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption and Morality in Andean Peru

By Dubinsky, Karen | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, March 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption and Morality in Andean Peru


Dubinsky, Karen, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Jessaca Leinaweaver.THE CIRCULATION OF CHILDREN: KINSHIP, ADOPTION AND MORALITY IN ANDEAN PERU. Durham: Date Diversity Press, 2008, 225 pp.

Kinship, as antropologist David Schneider famously put it, is nothing but Euro-American ideas about family, blood, sex, and biology dressed up as theory. Jessaca Leinaweaver takes this now standard anthropological insight and does what good anthropologists do best: creates a sympathetic and sensitively drawn entry point into the world of child circulation in contemporary Peru.

"Child circulation"-a term she draws from Brazilian scholar Claudia Fonseca, happens when a child physically noves into a new home, and their material, moral and relational responsibilities are transformed. The key point is co-residence or physical closeness, coupled with sharing early tasks of the home. The practice is what Leinaweaver terms a "black statistic," meaning that the numbers are completely unknown. But it is also, she writes, a widely observable and understandable practice, particularly in the Ayacucho region in the aftermath cf Peru's violent civil war.

Leinaweaver concludes, after several years of study in the region, that the motives for child circulation are complex. Political economy is the bedrock; the poverty of indigenous Peruvians, particularly in rural areas, is the foundation. Child circulation is the alternative for what she terms superación, or betterment. It is a method of strengthening social ties, building a life-long affective network for the child, and redistributing the "pleasures and constraints of parenting and being a child." (p. 8). Unlike adoption, which has historically separated families-a form of serial monogamy, as Sara Dorow put it-in child circulation "two families are brought into, or articulated more deeply into, kinship with one another." (p. 8).

Leinaweaver's main point is to set this practice against the ways in which the Peruvian state, non-governmental organizations and the international arena understand it. …

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