- Adoptive Migration: Raising Latinos in Spain by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver
When Adoption Meets Migration
Anthropological interest in transnational adoption is relatively recent, with the early studies dating from the turn of the century. Since then, there has been a rapid proliferation of anthropological and sociological accounts that complement and criticize the individuated and often pathology-oriented perspectives on transnational adoption prevailing in psychological and pediatric studies of the subject. The urge to understand the social, political and historical contexts that shape transnational adoption has produced a fascinating body of critical research that portrays a complicated and intriguing picture of the structural and everyday lived realities in transnational adoption. This research has been produced at the interface of kinship, reproduction and family studies and post-colonial and critical race studies, with, in the last few years, increasing attention to transnational adoption as a form of migration, seeking cross-fertilization with insights from immigration and refugee studies. Jessaca Leinaweaver’s Adoptive Migration is an important and fascinating contribution to this ongoing conversation.
The book brings together in subtle and unexpected ways various practices of child-rearing that are the result of different types of migration between Peru and Spain. Leinaweaver juxtaposes the adoption of Peruvian children into Spanish families not only with Spanish domestic adoptions of immigrant children but also with the family-making practices of both Spanish-Peruvian mixed couples and Peruvian labour migrants in Spain. Her account is based on meticulous ethnographic research in Spain, conducted between 2009 and 2012, and her previous fieldwork in Peru between 2000 and 2007, complemented with additional fieldwork in 2012. She draws on a range of sources of data, including semi-structured interviews, participant observation of public events, and textual and visual materials concerning adoption or migration. The insightful and simultaneous reading of family practices that are usually kept analytically separate generates fruitful insights, not only for adoption studies, but also for the study of immigration and itseffects. Moreover, her specific focus on children and families provides scope for the exploration of ideologies of kinship, parenting and family, both in the way they inform adoption and immigration policy and in the way they are mobilized in parents’ moral discourses around children’s best interest and parental responsibilities.
One central theme of the book is effectively summarized by the title. Adoptive Migration grasps the similarities the author observes between transnational adoption and other forms of immigration, and what these parallels teach us about the connections between kinship and integration in contemporary multicultural societies. The phrase underlines the migratory aspect of international adoption, which often tends to be obscured within dominant adoption discourse and practice. But it simultaneously hints at the adoptive aspects in processes of integration and assimilation and the capacity of the host society to adopt (the difference of) immigrants. Leinaweaver convincingly explains how adoptive parents’ preference for infants (Chapter 1) can be seen as exemplary of the expectations imposed on immigrants in European countries and of the limits to the differences that citizens of these countries are willing to adapt to. Infants’ assumed ability to be completely absorbed into the host family and nation turns them into ideal immigrants within imageries that equate interculturality and immigrant integration with cultural assimilation. Leinaweaver’s juxtaposition illuminates how “the burden is on the migrant to acculturate, not on the Spaniard to learn to understand and value difference” (22). Moreover, zooming in on labour migrants’ narratives of child-rearing (Chapter 2) confronts us with how migrants’ lived experiences of being an immigrant in Spain influence their ideas of what is the best country for children to grow up in. These narratives expose the ethnocentric nature of prevailing adoption discourse, which tends to view European countries as necessarily better places for children.
A second leitmotif in Leinaweaver’s book is the ideology of national substance, which imagines national identity as an essence, intricately bound up with a wide range of other, often less palpable identity markers, such as race and culture. The author skilfully brings to the surface the various ways in which an ideology of...