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Claiming Others

Transracial Adoption and National Belonging

2010
Author:

Mark C. Jerng

Claiming Others

How transracial adoption and its history changes the way we see family, nation, and race

Transracial adoption has recently become a hotly contested subject of contemporary and critical concern, with scholars across the disciplines working to unravel its complex implications. In Claiming Others, Mark C. Jerng traces the practice of adoption to the early nineteenth century, revealing its surprising centrality to American literature, law, and social thought.

Claiming Others is a pioneering study that provides high-level theoretical grounding for a new field. Transracial/transnational interactions are basic to American adoption history from the early nineteenth century, he demonstrates; they didn't just begin in the 1950s. Jerng makes intellectual and aesthetic sense of writings by and about a new community of transracial and transnational adoptees as he discusses their new modes of personhood. This book will be essential to anyone attempting a theoretically informed discussion of adoption and culture.

Marianne Novy, author of Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama

Transracial adoption has recently become a hotly contested subject of contemporary and critical concern, with scholars across the disciplines working to unravel its complex implications. In Claiming Others, Mark C. Jerng traces the practice of adoption to the early nineteenth century, revealing its surprising centrality to American literature, law, and social thought.

Jerng considers how adoption makes us rethink the parent-child bond as central to issues of race and nationality, showing the ways adoption also speaks to broader questions about our history and identity. He analyzes adoption through a diverse set of texts, including the 1851 Massachusetts statute that established adoption as we understand it today, early adoption manuals, the New York Times blog Relative Choices, and the work of John Tanner, Lydia Maria Child, William Faulkner, Charles Chesnutt, Chang-rae Lee, and David Henry Hwang.

Imaginative and social practices of transracial adoption have shaped major controversies, Jerng argues, from Native American removal to slavery to cold war expansionism in the twentieth century and the contemporary global market in children. As Claiming Others makes clear, understanding adoption is crucial to understanding not just the history between races in the United States, but also the meaning of emancipation and the role of family in nationhood.

Claiming Others

Mark C. Jerng is assistant professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

Claiming Others

Claiming Others is a pioneering study that provides high-level theoretical grounding for a new field. Transracial/transnational interactions are basic to American adoption history from the early nineteenth century, he demonstrates; they didn't just begin in the 1950s. Jerng makes intellectual and aesthetic sense of writings by and about a new community of transracial and transnational adoptees as he discusses their new modes of personhood. This book will be essential to anyone attempting a theoretically informed discussion of adoption and culture.

Marianne Novy, author of Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama

Jerng makes the boldest theoretical intervention in adoption studies.

Studies in American Naturalism

Claiming Others

Contents

Introduction: Transracial Adoption and the Reproduction of Personhood

I. On the Borders of Kinship

1. Competing Logics of Possession: Unredeemed Captives in the 1820s
2. Unmanageable Attachments: Slavery, Abolition, and the Transformation of Kinship
3. The Character of Race: Individuation and the Institutionalization of Adoption

II. Between Rights and Needs

4. The Right to Belong: Legal Norms, Cultural Origins, and Adoptee Identity
5. Resisting Recognition: Narrating Transracial Adoptees as Subjects
6: Making Family "Look Like Real": Transracial Adoption and the Challenge to Family Formation

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index