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Perceptions and deceptions : perspectives on adoptions from South Korea to North America Bagga, Rupa


This study provides a critical synthesis of existing research on adoptions from South Korea to the United States, and adds a comparison with adoptions from Korea to Canada. The focus is on the intersections of gender, race, class, and age, in Korea and the receiving countries. The first chapter provides an overview of debates on transnational, transracial adoption and justifies an interdisciplinary approach. The three central chapters look at adoptions from Korea to the US in three chronological stages. Each of these chapters begins with an examination of historical and sociological studies of adoptions from Korea, complemented by my own fieldwork there. This is followed by analyses of auto/bio/graphical texts in relation to the historical and socio-political background for that period. The focus in Chapter 2 is on the perspective of adopters, and analysis of the memoirs of Bertha Holt throws light on the origins of adoptions from Korea to the US. Chapter 3 conveys the perspective of Korean birthmothers, whose ‘letters’ to the relinquished child provide insight into the reasons for the continuation of adoptions from Korea.Chapter 4 moves to the perspective of adult adoptees who have returned to Korea and produced accounts representing a range of views on transnational, transracial adoption. The fifth chapter, dealing with Canada, adds the perspective of a Canadian adoption agency and would-be parents seeking to adopt from Korea, as adoptions from there are being phased out. Throughout the study terms borrowed from Foucault serve to highlight how collective and individual genealogies and power relations compete and intersect in the perceptions and interpretations of all those concerned. The central question is why and how perceptions of transnational adoptions from Korea have changed, in relation to institutional power (disciplines and biopower) and technologies of the self as means to enable adoptees and birthmothers to emerge from tutelage to care of/for the self. The Conclusion looks at the present situation in South Korea and an alternative heterotopic solution, the “children’s village.”

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