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The Politics of Adoption

Gender and the Making of French Citizenship

Bruno Perreau

Publication Year: 2014

In May 2013, after months of controversy, France legalized same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples. Obstacles to adoption and parenting equality remain, however -- many of them in the form of cultural and political norms reflected and expressed in French adoption policies. In <I>The Politics of Adoption</I>, Bruno Perreau describes the evolution of these policies. In the past thirty years, Perreau explains, political and intellectual life in France have been dominated by debates over how to preserve "Frenchness," and these debates have driven policy making. Adoption policies, he argues, link adoption to citizenship, reflecting and enforcing the postcolonial state's notions of parenthood, gender, and Frenchness. After reviewing the complex history of adoption, Perreau examines French political debates over adoption, noting, among other things, that intercountry adoptions stirred far less controversy than the difference between the sexes in an adopting couple. He also discusses judicial action on adoption; child welfare agencies as gatekeepers to parenthood (as defined by experts); the approval process from the viewpoints of social workers and applicants; and adoption's link to citizenship, and its use as a metaphor for belonging. Adopting a Foucaultian perspective, Perreau calls the biopolitics of adoption "pastoral": it manages the individual for the good of the collective "flock"; it considers itself outside politics; and it considers not so much the real behavior of individuals as an allegorical representation of them. His argument sheds new light on American debates on bioethics, identity, and citizenship.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series Info, Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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Series Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

I am pleased to present the forty-second book in the Basic Bioethics series. The series makes innovative works in bioethics available to a broad audience and introduces seminal scholarly manuscripts, state-of-the-art reference works, and textbooks. ...

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pp. ix-x

The Politics of Adoption was born in 2010 when I joined MIT as an assistant professor of French Studies. After ten years of teaching and writing in Paris, I was eager to open new directions in my study of kinship and belonging. This book can be read as a first contribution to a broader project that questions the very notion of “culture.” ...

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pp. xi-xxvi

On May 17, 2013, after several months of fierce debate in the media, in the streets, and in the legislature, France legalized same-sex marriage and entitled homosexual couples to adopt children jointly. A major watershed had apparently occurred: henceforth, French family law would ostensibly treat all citizens alike, with no distinction based on sex, gender, or sexuality. ...

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1 The Multiple Meanings of Adoption

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pp. 1-16

Adoption covers situations that have varied greatly from one culture and period to another. They range from the transfer of political power (during the Roman Empire) to the sharing of economic resources among neighbors (notarial adoption in the Middle Ages), to the passing on of personal property (the Napoleonic Code Civil of 1804), ...

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2 The Legislative Arena

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pp. 17-46

The history of adoption policies in France is surprisingly consistent in terms of the issues debated over the past sixty years or so. Despite profound changes in the institution of adoption, the questions that frequently resurface concern the imbalance of supply and demand,2 the status of single women,3 and the relationship between children ’ s rights and the right to children.4 ...

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3 The Jurisprudential Forum

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pp. 47-72

Adoption brings into play a set of disparate institutions from child welfare agencies to the social services administration via regional governments, local courts, and administrative tribunals, all driven by very different—indeed, opposing—interests and modes of socialization and symbolic reward. ...

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4 Administering Parenthood

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pp. 73-96

The field of adoption includes players from varying backgrounds and careers: local and national administrative personnel, independent psychologists and psychiatrists, volunteers in humanitarian organizations, activists for parental causes, journalists, and so on. ...

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5 What Approval Means

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pp. 97-110

During the nineteenth century, Western societies sought to enhance surveillance of fringe groups by anticipating the danger represented by the latter.2 They drew support from a new notion based on probability and abstraction, namely, risk.3 ...

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6 Children of the Nation

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pp. 111-130

On a talk show called Mots Croisés (Crossword), broadcast on French television in May 2007, essayist Alain Finkielkraut—discussing the subject of national identity—claimed that France was not a “smorgasbord.” Referring to the obligations that went with “integration,” he stressed that people had to earn French nationality. ...

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pp. 131-134

The Politics of Adoption is an invitation to question what makes a community, to shift the issue of biology from a perspective centered on the significance of vital ties to a critical analysis of technologies of power through which we conceive ourselves as living beings. 2 ...

Main Abbreviations

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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-140

Legal Forms of Adoption

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pp. 141-144


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pp. 145-150


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pp. 151-186

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 187-194


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pp. 195-208

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780262323383
E-ISBN-10: 0262323389
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262027229

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014