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Imagining Kinship and Rearticulating Immigration: Transnational Adoption from China from 1882 to the Present.

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Title:Imagining Kinship and Rearticulating Immigration: Transnational Adoption from China from 1882 to the Present.
Authors:Luo, Yanli
Contributors:American Studies (department)
Keywords:transnational adoption from China
cultural representations
fictive kinship
Chinese immigration
immigrant-adoptee dichotomy
Date Issued:Dec 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:Since the 1990s, adoption from China has become a striking phenomenon in the United
States. Adoption of Chinese children, usually female, by primarily white Americans has been
highly visible in America, and media coverage of celebrities—such as Hollywood stars Meg
Ryan and Woody Allen and former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman—adopting Chinese
girls further adds to this visibility. However, such high visibility overshadows other forms of
adoption from China. Even in the Exclusion Era from 1882 to 1943, transnational adoption from
China existed, primarily in the form of so-called “paper sons” (and a few “paper daughters”),
who entered through counterfeit, usually purchased, documents that proved their legal status as
children of American citizens. In order to immigrate, paper children created non-blood parentchild,
or de facto adoptive, relationship with their paper families. Moreover, in the 1950s and
1960s, more than 1,000 Chinese children, most of whom were from Chinese refugee families,
were adopted into the United States from Hong Kong predominantly by Chinese Americans.
My dissertation examines transnational adoption from China by situating it in the Chinese
immigration history from 1882 to the present. Departing from existing research mainly
undertaken from sociological, anthropological, or psychological perspectives, I explore an
understudied area—representations of transnational adoption in cultural texts. Adoption does not
occur in a vacuum. I argue that transnational adoption has become a site of power contestations
through which different parties—individuals from the sending and receiving countries, Chinese
and American nation-states, and the British empire as represented by the Hong Kong Colonial
government—made meanings to serve their own purposes. In this process, racialized, gendered,
and ideological meanings and discourses about Chinese children, women, immigrants, white
adoptive parents, China, the British empire, and the United States have been produced and
circulated. Juxtaposing the discourses produced by mainstream media from these political
entities with the narratives and voices of individuals exposes how these dominant discourses are
selective, incomplete, competing, contradictory, and sometimes inaccurate and ineffective on the
one hand, and highlight the centrality of racialization and gendering in U.S. family formation and
nation building, on the other.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - American Studies

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