In my current research, I’ve been looking into various conceptions of citizenship, the nation-states of source and adoption, as well as the ephemeral nature of what makes for adoptee identity and sense of belonging. Coincidentally, I recently submitted the last of the paperwork required to regain my nationality (a scan of my adoptive father’s passport) to my lawyer. When the process is complete, I will have established a legal precedent for others to follow. As informed by friends of all stripes, I will also have made of myself a complete laughing stock, compared to most everyone else who is trying to leave this place.
Be that as it may, my recent success with DNA testing, along with rapidly changing scenarios of what makes for “citizenship” (read: economic potential and allegiance) in receiving countries actually had me reconsidering completely going through with the process—too much seemed at stake. In the end, I think the precedent is worth the effort after all of these years, and as many immigrants can attest, having a nationality and claiming an “identity” based on that nationality are two entirely different subjects of discussion.
What follows is an overview of some of what I’ve been grappling with. Some of it is personal, some of it is unique to Lebanon, much of it will ring true for international adoptees at least, and I hope that it might provide a starting point for discussion on the subject of the responsibilities of adoptive parents and agencies in not just naturalizing children, but in questioning their very role in perpetuating statelessness, dispossession, displacement, and disinheritance.
The following list is devoted to books by Lebanese adoptees, usually in the language of receiving country, but often translated into one or more languages currently spoken in Lebanon. I do not wish to review the books, and obviously I do not always share the same viewpoint on adoption as the authors. I do wish to acknowledge the variety of such viewpoints, and at the very least, the common thread among them, which is the search for origins.
I am posting here a small excerpt from my proposal to the Asfari Institute entitled: Adoption in the Lebanese Context:
Practices of Extirpation and Their Impact
on Kinship, Community, Citizenship, and Identity. I’ve already expanded it into a full research proposal, and the Legal Agenda translated an abridged version which appeared in the newspaper supplement to As-Safir newspaper [link: التبني كأحد مظاهر الإختفاء القسري].
Today I received a beautiful letter in my email. It is from the Asfari Institute located here at the American University of Beirut. It reads in part:
We are pleased to inform you that your fellowship proposal entitled: Adoption in the Lebanese Context: Practices of Extirpation and Their Impact on Kinship, Community, Citizenship, and Identity has been accepted for funding by the jury committee for the Asfari Institute of Civil Society and Citizenship. The Asfari Institute is pleased to support your fellowship.…On behalf of the American University of Beirut, we wish you ever success with the project, and we congratulate you on being chosen from a very competitive pool of applicants.
As adoptees, we are used to this drill. Adoptive parents, in a fit of what they believe to be enlightenment, deem themselves worthy of writing up our adoption experiences. These narratives are designed to be consumed by those of the very class which allowed our adoption in the first place. Ironically, we are left out of this equation, and this becomes the flip side of a double-edged sword should we decide to try to turn this narrative around. This results in our further rejection, the inscribing of our “outlier” status, and the realization that “flipping scripts” is as useless as it is impossible. We need to learn from our own histories, as well as those of every other group that has experienced such a thing. Our Voices on some level have been heard, and the response to it is as strategic and tactical as it is silencing. Despite being brought into another family and often society, we remain, for all intents and purposes, Outsiders.
I’ve uploaded papers, conference presentations, articles, etc. to Academia.edu [link to Academia.edu]; I hope this will serve as a more central repository of output than my various blogs/web sites.
View main page: [link to Academia.edu]
Thanks for reading.
This is based on emails as I’ve been sending them out to friends and family. As much as I complain about this place, there are times when I am grateful to be on the periphery and not in the Belly of the Beast. Of course, I greatly appreciate all the messages of concern. Here I’m just trying to put a little perspective on things.
First of all, I guess it is all about context, because as I said to [my siblings] the other day, would they be more or less worried about me if I were in, say, Newark? Or Paterson? [I’m listing them because I’d consider living there were I to return to the States, not as derogatory statements against them.] And Paris! Honestly, I felt much less safe in Paris, because I was stopped all the time by the police there for my gueule arabe, and I dealt with their racism endlessly, up-front and personally.
SAVE THE DATE: June 9–11, 2016
CONFERENCE: The Ninth Biennial Adoption Initiative Conference
THEME: Myth and Reality in Adoption: Transforming Practice Through Lessons Learned
WEB SITE: http://adoptioninitiative.org/
The following sub-chapter entitled “The Family and the School” is excerpted from the book Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities [link to Verso], by Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein.