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Legitimating Life

Adoption in the Age of Globalization and Biotechnology

Sonja van Wichelen

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Rutgers University Press
30 November 2018
The phenomenon of transnational adoption is changing in the age of globalization and biotechnology. In Legitimating Life, Sonja van Wichelen boldly describes how contemporary justifications of cross-border adoption navigate between child welfare, humanitarianism, family making, capitalism, science, and health. Focusing on contemporary institutional practices of adoption in the United States and the Netherlands, she traces how professionals, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians, social workers, and experts legitimate a practice that became progressively controversial.

Throughout the past few decades transnational adoption transformed from a humanitarian response to a means of making family. In this new manifestation, life becomes necessarily economized. While push and pull factors, demand and supply dynamics, and competition between agencies set the stage for the globalization of adoption, international conventions, scientific knowledge, and the language of human rights universalized the phenomenon.

Van Wichelen argues that such technoscientific legitimations of a globalizing practice are rearticulating colonial logics of race and civilization. Yet, she also lets us see beyond the biopolitical project and into alternative ways of making kin.
By:   Sonja van Wichelen
Imprint:   Rutgers University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 18mm
ISBN:   9781978800519
ISBN 10:   1978800517
Series:   Medical Anthropology
Pages:   224
Publication Date:   30 November 2018
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Sonja Van Wichelen is a senior research fellow with the department of sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney in Australia. She is the author of Religion, Gender and Politics in Indonesia: Disputing the Muslim Body.

Reviews for Legitimating Life: Adoption in the Age of Globalization and Biotechnology

Van Wichelen offers a captivating and capacious framework for understanding global reproduction and modern family formation. Using ethnographic moments in international adoption as a launch point, she develops a sophisticated critique of the interrelations among humanitarianism, rights, and biomedicalization. --Sara Dorow author of Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship In Legitimating Life, Sonja van Wichelen provides a comprehensive analysis of the transformation of international adoption into a technology of reproduction through the imposition of a legal 'clean break' that decouples the child from its family and community of origin so that it can become a global resource for producing 'as-if-begotten' families in Europe and North America. Legitimating Life makes a compelling case for a new politics of international adoption that opens up a landscape for 'the doing and desiring of kinship otherwise, ' even as it secures the right of every child to family life, as mandated by international law. --Barbara Yngvesson author of Belonging in an Adopted World: Race, Identity, and Transnational Adoption


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