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Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging
by Eleana J. Kim
Duke University Press, 2010
Cloth: 978-0-8223-4683-8 | Paper: 978-0-8223-4695-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8223-9266-8

Since the end of the Korean War, an estimated 200,000 children from South Korea have been adopted into white families in North America, Europe, and Australia. While these transnational adoptions were initiated as an emergency measure to find homes for mixed-race children born in the aftermath of the war, the practice grew exponentially from the 1960s through the 1980s. At the height of South Korea’s “economic miracle,” adoption became an institutionalized way of dealing with poor and illegitimate children. Most of the adoptees were raised with little exposure to Koreans or other Korean adoptees, but as adults, through global flows of communication, media, and travel, they have come into increasing contact with each other, Korean culture, and the South Korean state. Since the 1990s, as Korean children have continued to leave to be adopted in the West, a growing number of adult adoptees have been returning to Korea to seek their cultural and biological origins. In this fascinating ethnography, Eleana J. Kim examines the history of Korean adoption, the emergence of a distinctive adoptee collective identity, and adoptee returns to Korea in relation to South Korean modernity and globalization. Kim draws on interviews with adult adoptees, social workers, NGO volunteers, adoptee activists, scholars, and journalists in the U.S., Europe, and South Korea, as well as on observations at international adoptee conferences, regional organization meetings, and government-sponsored motherland tours.

Eleana J. Kim is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rochester.

Adopted Territory is the best and most thorough treatment of transnational adoption that I have seen. Eleana J. Kim provides sophisticated analyses of Korean overseas adoption to the United States, and South Korean history and state politics, within the contexts of cold war geopolitics and the rise of the American empire, while also attending to issues of nation, race, citizenship, gender, social class, and culture. The breadth, depth, and scope of Kim’s analyses contribute importantly to our understanding of the people and the phenomenon. Her well-contextualized and sensitive discussions of adoptee subjectivities are of particular interest.”—Elaine H. Kim, University of California, Berkeley

“This truly remarkable ethnography chronicles the birth and first generation of the global Korean adoptee movement. Adopted Territory brilliantly asserts that the movement is born of a powerful historical conjuncture among: the U.S.’s millennial culture of multiculturalism; South Korea’s aggressive globalization regimes and emergent democratic civil society; and adoptees coming of age. Adopted Territory offers also a sophisticated study of family, kinship, and nation through the challenging lens of adoption which Eleana J. Kim declares a veritable ‘catalyst for social transformation.’ A beautifully crafted multi-sited ethnography, Adopted Territory will no doubt enjoy a vibrant intellectual life.”—Nancy Abelmann, author of The Intimate University: Korean American Students and the Problems of Segregation

-- EuyRyung Jun Journal of Asian Studies

-- Ann H. Kim Ethnic and Racial Studies

-- Tobias H´┐Żbinette Pacific Affairs

-- Barbara Yngvesson American Ethnologist

-- Sara Dorow Contemporary Sociology

-- Jessica Walton Anthropological Forum


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See other books on: Adoptees | Belonging | Intercountry adoption | Kim, Eleana J. | Korea (South)
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