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

Luo, Yanli
American Studies
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Starting Page
Ending Page
Alternative Title
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 v 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.
transnational adoption from China, cultural representations, fictive kinship, Chinese immigration, immigrant-adoptee dichotomy
Geographic Location
Time Period
Related To
Table of Contents
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.
Rights Holder
Local Contexts
Email if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.