Since the end of the Korean War, an estimated 200,000 children from South Korea have been adopted into white families in North America, Europe, and Australia. While these transnational adoptions were initiated as an emergency measure to find homes for mixed-race children born in the aftermath of the war, the practice grew exponentially from the 1960s through the 1980s. At the height of South Korea’s “economic miracle,” adoption became an institutionalized way of dealing with poor and illegitimate children. Most of the adoptees were raised with little exposure to Koreans or other Korean adoptees, but as adults, through global flows of communication, media, and travel, they have come into increasing contact with each other, Korean culture, and the South Korean state. Since the 1990s, as Korean children have continued to leave to be adopted in the West, a growing number of adult adoptees have been returning to Korea to seek their cultural and biological origins. In this fascinating ethnography, Eleana J. Kim examines the history of Korean adoption, the emergence of a distinctive adoptee collective identity, and adoptee returns to Korea in relation to South Korean modernity and globalization. Kim draws on interviews with adult adoptees, social workers, NGO volunteers, adoptee activists, scholars, and journalists in the U.S., Europe, and South Korea, as well as on observations at international adoptee conferences, regional organization meetings, and government-sponsored motherland tours.
During the 1990s, the number of children adopted from poorer countries to the more affluent West grew exponentially. Close to 140,000 transnational adoptions occurred in the United States alone. While in an earlier era, adoption across borders was assumed to be straightforward—a child traveled to a new country and stayed there—by the late twentieth century, adoptees were expected to acquaint themselves with the countries of their birth and explore their multiple identities. Listservs, Web sites, and organizations creating international communities of adoptive parents and adoptees proliferated. With contributors including several adoptive parents, this unique collection looks at how transnational adoption creates and transforms cultures.
The cultural experiences considered in this volume raise important questions about race and nation; about kinship, biology, and belonging; and about the politics of the sending and receiving nations. Several essayists explore the images and narratives related to transnational adoption. Others examine the recent preoccupation with “roots” and “birth cultures.” They describe a trip during which a group of Chilean adoptees and their Swedish parents traveled “home” to Chile, the “culture camps” attended by thousands of young-adult Korean adoptees whom South Korea is now eager to reclaim as “overseas Koreans,” and adopted children from China and their North American parents grappling with the question of what “Chinese” or “Chinese American” identity might mean. Essays on Korean birth mothers, Chinese parents who adopt children within China, and the circulation of children in Brazilian families reveal the complexities surrounding adoption within the so-called sending countries. Together, the contributors trace the new geographies of kinship and belonging created by transnational adoption.
Contributors. Lisa Cartwright, Claudia Fonseca, Elizabeth Alice Honig, Kay Johnson, Laurel Kendall, Eleana Kim, Toby Alice Volkman, Barbara Yngvesson
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has been off-limits to human habitation for nearly seventy years, and in that time, biodiverse forms of life have flourished in and around the DMZ as beneficiaries of an unresolved war. In Making Peace with Nature Eleana J. Kim shows how a closer examination of the DMZ in South Korea reveals that the area’s biodiversity is inseparable from scientific practices and geopolitical, capitalist, and ecological dynamics. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with ecologists, scientists, and local residents, Kim focuses on irrigation ponds, migratory bird flyways, and land mines in the South Korean DMZ area, demonstrating how human and nonhuman ecologies interact and transform in spaces defined by war and militarization. In so doing, Kim reframes peace away from a human-oriented political or economic peace and toward a more-than-human, biological peace. Such a peace recognizes the reality of war while pointing to potential forms of human and nonhuman relations.
When Emily Martin delivered the annual Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the University of Rochester in 1986, she took as her subject the meaning of money in China and the United States. Though the topic is of perennial interest—and never more so than in our era, when economic forecasts of China’s growing economy generate shallow news stories and public fear—the lectures were never edited for publication, so their rich analysis has been unavailable to anthropologists ever since.
With this book—the first volume in a collaboration between Hau Books and the University of Rochester—Martin’s lectures are brought back, fully edited and richly illustrated. A new introduction by Martin herself brings her analysis wholly up to date, while an afterword by Jane I. Guyer and Sidney Mintz discusses Martin’s work, influence, and legacy. The Meaning of Money in China and the United States will instantly assume its rightful place as a classic in the field, with Martin’s insights as germane and productive as they were nearly thirty years ago.