The Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC) Conference this year will feature sessions of The Adoption Initiative, which is usually a separate conference. I’ve been to both conferences in the past, have worked on the planning committee for the latter, and am greatly looking forward to this combined effort. The conference will take place in Oakland, October 18–20.
My proposal, “Resisting Extirpation: Revolutionary Adoption Activism” has been accepted as a paper presentation. The proposal follows:
Research Paper Proposal • Current adoption activism accedes to dominant liberal conceptions of economic and political value as ascribed to human life. By extension it concedes culturally specific concepts of family creation, kinship, identity, and citizenship. Adopters and adoptees, identifying with the class responsible for displacement and dispossession along a grand spectrum, construct adoption as separate from similar societal disinheritances. When examined through a lens of “social death”, adoption regains its role as a quite successful tool of social cleansing. It is only in admitting adoption’s agency in such practices that an effective resistance concerning survival and healing can be put into place.
Purpose • This presentation will challenge the current stasis of adoption activism. It will propose the correct reclassification of adoption as a purely extirpative practice. This redefinition demands responses that do not in and of themselves aid or abet said practice. It will advance an activist and revolutionary praxis as the basis for a renewed activism concerning adoption.
Conceptualizations/Theory(ies) • Despite its formalization and adaptation over the years, adoption’s function as an extirpative violence continues to seek the removal of the unwanted, unfit, and undesirable figuratively from the body politic, more literally from geographic place, and existentially from life itself. As such, adoption activism need focus on precursors in a similar vein: eugenics, euthanasia, genocide, and societal cleansing of unwanted populations. A radical adoption activism puts forward the tenet that the act of adoption does not put an end to this desired annihilation, nor does it remove an adoptee to a safe haven. In fact, the desired end result of the original targeting continues, with deleterious social and psychological effects on adoptees over a lifetime.
In this light, and in an effort to regain a sense of holistic purpose, such activism must seek out communal alliances with those similarly deemed outside of the polis and part of the zoë (Agamben). It requires an examination of the history of adoption less in terms of race, family, belonging, and identity along individualistic lines as defined and categorized by dominant norms, and more in terms of originating class and community as targeted for extermination by said norms. Theoretical frameworks denoting the formalization of genocidal strategies (Card, Marsoobian), the concept of social death (Patterson), and the failures of liberal citizenship (Balibar, Wallerstein) prevail as valid lenses through which to define adoption, especially in the face of the continuing failure of adoptees to be considered valid members of the polity.
The Adoption Initiative is one of the few adoption-specific conferences that allows for challenges to the dominant norms and the status quo concerning adoption. In the face of cooptation of adoptee activism, it becomes vital that the questioning of the status quo of adoption practice be given voice. I can’t think of a more appropriate venue for such a presentation as Oakland! Hope to see you there in October!