Transnational Adoption

A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship

331 pages

9 illustrations

April, 2006

ISBN: 9780814719725



Also available in



Part of the Nation of Nations series


Sara K. Dorow is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta. She is the author of When You Were Born in China: A Memory Book for Children Adopted in China and I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Ran Won to Their Children.

All books by Sara K. Dorow

Each year, thousands of Chinese children, primarily abandoned infant girls, are adopted by Americans. Yet we know very little about the local and transnational processes that characterize this new migration.

Transnational Adoption is a unique ethnographic study of China/U.S. adoption, the largest contemporary intercountry adoption program. Sara K. Dorow begins by situating the popularity of the China/U.S. adoption process within a broader history of immigration and adoption. She then follows the path of the adoption process: the institutions and bureaucracies in both China and the United States that prepare children and parents for each other; the stories and practices that legitimate them coming together as transnational families; the strains placed upon our common notions of what motherhood means; and ways in which parents then construct the cultural and racial identities of adopted children.

Based on rich ethnographic evidence, including interviews with and observation of people on both sides of the Pacific—from orphanages, government officials, and adoption agencies to advocacy groups and adoptive families themselves—this is a fascinating look at the latest chapter in Chinese-American migration.


  • “The book is useful, too, to sociologists and antropologists who seek to understand how American kinship norms and narratives are changing with America’s shifting demographic landscape.”

    American Journal of Sociology

  • “Books like Dorow’s perform a vital role in drawing international attention to one’s consequence of China’s population policy.”

    Journal of American Studies

  • “Provides an original and exciting global framework for understanding the political economy of international adoption.”

    —Catherine Ceniza Choy, author of Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History

  • “This is a fascinating project, a book that (at last!) gives the phenomenon of transnational China/U.S. adoption the sustained, serious attention that it deserves.”

    —Laura Briggs, author of Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico