Daniel, Ibn Bahija.

Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa.

Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa. (Photo by Mayda Freije Makdessi)

Seest thou one who denies the Reckoning? Then such is he who harshly repulses the orphan…. —The Small Kindnesses, 107:1–3

We remain the repulsed, splinters, expelled from the body; the corpus surrounds us, englobes us, drives us out; it then returns to a state of “as if” we had never existed. Should we attempt return, we do not notice that the immune response starts yet again, only at this point we are incapable of understanding its reasonings and explanations. Ô Lebanon! Shall I be sorry that I wished not to return as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized greet their oppressors. There is no comfort here. No, I sought something more from you: an origin, a sense of source, an acknowledgement of belonging, a claim to place—a wish shared by many also discounted as not being “of” this place, none of which you deemed worthy of offering. In this regard, I was naive to an extreme, no doubt. Things have changed as they are wont, though it took much of a lifetime: After a decade of search, a DNA test, and reunion with extended family, a great unblocking took place as word got round, as the who and the what and the why made the rounds; and an elderly man plagued by his memories of a child absconded with half a century ago came forward, and revealed a secret to the only man he trusts with such information, my cousin Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
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National anti-adoption awareness month: 30 answers to 30 questions.

The problem for adoptees arguing about their position in society is similar to what has been experienced previously by other marginalized groups looking to make a space within the hegemonic culture. Namely, how to expand out from what is considered simply a personal issue; an individual hang-up; a “selfish” focus on one’s condition. The individualistic and solipsistic dominant culture ironically turns around and tells its absconded-with children to not be so “selfish” as to complain. In other terms, this was used against other groups as well—”don’t be ‘uppity'”; “know your role”. We should literally be seen and not heard. Those days are over.
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“What It Cost to be Adopted” by Michele Merritt

I was honored to have participated in this much-needed rebuttal to the ever-repugnant New York Times’ article, “What I Spent to Adopt my Child”. Quoting from the piece:

The New York Times (NYT) recently published a piece, “What I Spent to Adopt My Child,” which was part of the larger series, “The Price of Modern Parenting.” In this story, three sets of adoptive parents were featured, highlighting the varying costs of adoption. While the practical aims were arguably simple—to inform potential adoptive parents about the monetary costs they can expect to incur should they choose to adopt—the story sparked considerable outrage among adoptees and birth parents. How, one might wonder, could such a seemingly innocuous article on parenting stir such controversy? The answer lies with a systematic problem inherent in nearly all mainstream media accounts of adoption, namely, the glaring omission of the adoptee perspective. Ironically, the very children adoption purportedly ‘saves’ are rarely offered a seat at the table when it comes to discussing adoption. The reason for this, I argue, is that adoptee narratives overwhelmingly undermine the dominant worldview of adoption as a ‘win-win’ or an unqualified good. Instead, adoptees often provide much darker, more painful, and traumatic stories. They are difficult truths that adoptive parents do not want to hear. They are stories that the adoption industry outright refuses to acknowledge.

You can read the full article here: https://visiblemagazine.com/what-it-cost-to-be-adopted/

Please repost and boost!

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Existence is Resistance: The BDS and Land Back Movements

This statement is in response to the Vancouver City Council’s recent resolution targeting BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions). It has been updated to reflect growing local efforts in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and protests concerning the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Indigenous territory. It serves as the framework 
for a project produced by Jamaa Al-Yad Artists’ Collective: Land Back 2020.

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The ignoble, offensive, and destructive #NAAM

In November, 2013, over the course of the month, I collected various responses I had given on Yahoo! Answers and the like concerning the topic of adoption. It was a response to National Adoption Awareness Month, a thirty-day celebration of the industry of trafficking and extirpation that is adoption in the Global North. Each year since then I refloat these answers on social media, and each year I think to myself how desperately sad it is that adoption activists are still at it after so many decades, and also how this seemingly innocuous hashtag of #NAAM causes so much harm to adoptees around the world in terms of reliving the painful reality of what adoption represents.

“The Orphanage”, woodcut, 2015.

I’ve made a PDF document out of all the responses and have uploaded it to my page at academia.edu. The PDF document can be found at the following link:


You can use a Facebook or Google ID to download it.

The original link starts at: https://danielibnzayd.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/anti-adoption-month-30-answers-to-30-questions/.

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On Extirpation, Rerooting, and Creative Liberation

Maymanah Farhat contacted me to write a two-paragraph art review for Jadaliyya’s 2018 end-of-year art review. I wrote the following instead. With special thanks to Maymanah for follow-up reference to the El-Khiam prison art collection, and to Lara Atallah for her helpful review, input, and suggestions.

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Parsing and decolonizing the mediation 
of Canadian immigration narratives

This paper is a response to an article that appeared in the Tyee [link: https://thetyee.ca/]. Below is a link to download the PDF file.

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College Art Association Conference 2019

I will be in NYC next week for CAA’s 2019 conference. I’ll be presenting on decolonizing the classroom (in the original liberation sense, not the current vapid buzzword sense). There is a pay-as-you-wish day pass, so if you are around on Saturday do drop by!

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“No, these are not our children.”

This draft was sitting in my email Drafts folder. I have no recollection to whom I was addressing this. As I get ready to attend ASAC/AI in Oakland this coming week [note: October, 2017], I’m dreading the resurgent feeling that running the hamster wheel doesn’t change anything; that the debate is a sidetracking of what should be protests and activist stances, the physical shutting down of adoption agencies, the clearing out of traffickers from hospital emergency rooms, the blocking of state legislature entranceways….

God willing the day will come when adoptive parents will be willing to stand up and state out loud: “No, these are not our children; they are entrusted to our care, and we are giving to the greater community by caring for them. We pray for the day when they might find their way back to their parents. We pray for the day when their families and communities might be able to care for them again, and we patiently await that day and strive to see it come. We understand that the various systems of this nation-state define our class status based on procreation, and we deem this invalid. We vow to equalize the societal inequality and the injustice that led to their adoption in the first place. We vow this, instead of the leveraging of class warfare to make claims that are—we admit readily and at long last—patently false. “

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دانيال، ابن بهيجة



ترجمة: هلا قمبريس

لإنجليزية الأصلية: Daniel, Ibn Bahija

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ
فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ.
الماعون، ٢-١: ١٠٧

لا نزال نحن المنبوذين، شظايا طردت من الجسد. جسمنا يحيطُ بنا، ويحتوينا، فيطردنا؛ ثم يعود إلى حالة «كما لو» لم نوجد. إن حاولنا العودة، لا نلاحظ أن المناعة تبدأ من جديد، إلا أننا في هذه المرحلة غير قادرين على فهم أسبابها وتفسيراتها. يا لبنان! هل عليّ أن آسف لأنني لا أتمنى العودة بصفتي «أمريكي»؟ لو فعلت ذلك، أعلم أن أذرعاً مفتوحة كانت احتضنتني، تماماً كما يستقبلُ المستعمَرون مضّطهِديهم. لا راحة هنا. لا، لقد طلبت المزيد منك: الأصل، والشعور بالجذور، والاعتراف بالانتماء، والمطالبة بالمكان – وهي رغبة يتشاركها كثيرون أيضًا باعتبار أنهم ليسوا «من» هذا المكان، وأنت لم تعتبر أيًا منها جديرة أن تقدّمها. في هذا الصدد، كنت ساذجاَ إلى أقصى الحدود، بلا شكّ.

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Intercountry Adoption: An Invisible Narrative of War

Badael-Alternatives (@badael_alternat) is pleased to invite you to its conference:

“Intercountry Adoption: A Narrative of War”.

The Conference will be held:
10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 21st, 2019
at the Padova Hotel, Sin el Fil, Beirut.

The conference’s aim is to highlight the processes and practices of intercountry adoption via Lebanon and their implications concerning the right to origins and access to information. The findings of the documentation process of some thousands of adoption encounters will be shared. Foregrounded here are the narratives of the individuals who were adopted as well as the unheard voices of original mothers and families.

For more information and to confirm attendance, please contact:


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The Adoptee as Citizen, Denizen, Alien:
 Redefining Adoption as Formalized Extirpation

This paper served as the basis for a translated article that appeared in the Legal Agenda newsletter [link: http://www.legal-agenda.com/article.php?id=1274&folder=articles&lang=ar], and was presented at a conference that was set up to discuss the ongoing crisis of child trafficking in Greater Syria. Below is a link to download the PDF file.

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