International Adoption

Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children

320 pages

July, 2009

ISBN: 9780814791028



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Diana Marre is Senior Researcher in Social Anthropology at the Instituto de Infancia y Mundo Urbano in Barcelona. She is co-editor of La Adopción y el Acogimiento.

All books by Diana Marre

Laura Briggs is Associate Professor and Department Head, Gender and Women's Studies, University of Arizona.

All books by Laura Briggs

In the past two decades, transnational adoption has exploded in scope and significance, growing up along increasingly globalized economic relations and the development and improvement of reproductive technologies. A complex and understudied system, transnational adoption opens a window onto the relations between nations, the inequalities of the rich and the poor, and the history of race and racialization, Transnational adoption has been marked by the geographies of unequal power, as children move from poorer countries and families to wealthier ones, yet little work has been done to synthesize its complex and sometimes contradictory effects.

Rather than focusing only on the United States, as much previous work on the topic does, International Adoption considers the perspectives of a number of sending countries as well as other receiving countries, particularly in Europe. The book also reminds us that the U.S. also sends children into international adoptions—particularly children of color. The book thus complicates the standard scholarly treatment of the subject, which tends to focus on the tensions between those who argue that transnational adoption is an outgrowth of American wealth, power, and military might (as well as a rejection of adoption from domestic foster care) and those who maintain that it is about a desire to help children in need.


  • “This comprehensive volume is timely and useful... This volume is sufficiently theoretical and provides useful empirical detail. The book’s geographic scale is noteworthy, including classic sites for consideration of child circulation, such as Hawai’i, and well-know sending countries such as Russia and China. But it also attends to less well-studied areas: Spain, Quebec, Lithuania, Brazil, and Peru.”


  • "This lively collection of seventeen essays is devoted to variations on the theme of international adoption. The essays . . . present a comprehensive overview of a wide range of issues, with thought-provoking contributions on a variety of case studies from sending and receiving countries."

    —Giovanna Bacchiddu, Social Anthropology

  • "Certainly the most comprehensive set of essays on international adoption ever assembled, this collection represents but also stretches beyond the recent renaissance in adoption scholarship. Perhaps its greatest innovation is that ‘international’ is not just a reference to the circulation of children across borders, but also to the impressive range of geographical, social, and theoretical perspectives proffered by the book’s authors. They are veteran scholars as well as some fresh new voices. Marre and Briggs provide smart, historically informed editorship, making the book a must-have for humanities and social science scholars interested in kinship, globally stratified reproduction, and gender."

    —Sara Dorow, University of Alberta

  • "It is a breath of fresh air to have an international group of scholars finally weigh in on the movement of children between nations for the purpose of adoption. This important book, including perspectives from both sending and receiving countries, illustrates the ‘two-ness’ of transnational family-making."

    —Ellen Herman, author of Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States

  • "A powerful and intelligent volume. Its attention to inequalities associated with class, race, sexuality, nation, and globalization, as well as its serious engagement of cultural ideas about kinship, make it a critical resource for scholars, students, practitioners, and others interested in adoption in the contemporary era."

    —Teresa Toguchi Swartz, University of Minnesota