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Blood Binds: Confronting the Moral and Political Economies of Orphanhood and International Adoption in Uganda

Forthcoming in Childhood (Sage 2015). Originally prepared for the Doing Politics - Making Kinship Workshop, Berlin, Feb 13-15, 2014

Kristen Cheney

on 15 June 2015

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Transcript of Blood Binds: Confronting the Moral and Political Economies of Orphanhood and International Adoption in Uganda

Blood Binds
Wave of international adoption
Forcing the question of when a child is (and is not) 'ours'.
From blood binds to care as kinship
'Better life' discourse = a (neoliberal) moral discourse on poverty
International adoption favored over domestic adoption
'Blood' discourses reinforce myths tht Ugandans don't adopt, but some are trying to change that...
Confronting 'blood,' belonging and child protection
Issue of where Ugandan children belong shifts from 'blood' to concern for cultural heritage as part of identity
ICA fraud reconfiguring notions of adoption (by foreigners) as noble or (by locals) as shameful
Kin-making as international politics: who should care?
Adoption Boom
Ethiopia --> other countries, including Uganda
Legal guardianship loophole
Increasing institutionalization
Adoption fraud
a new frontier for international adoptions
Persistent discourse of 'orphan rescue' fuels demand

Shifting frontier amidst recurrent patterns of abuse came to Africa in the mid-2000s
After Adoption
Adoptive parents claim adopted children as blood relatives
Adoptees bring 'bad blood', threaten the inheritance of ‘blood relatives.’
Mediating relatives' claims on their care and resources
Preventing discrimination against adopted children
Abandonment, Institutionalization, and Adoption in Ugandan Context
No significant history of institutional care
90% of orphans are cared for by extended families and communities
Despite this, a proliferation in orphanages and institutionalized children, most funded by foreigners
Obstacles to Adoption
Permeability of social kin relations and the impermeability of biological kin relations.
'Blood’ acts as a metaphor for the immutability of identity and belonging/exclusion in Ugandan society: “Blood always finds its way home.”
Confronting the Moral and Political Economies
of Orphanhood and International Adoption in Uganda

Kristen E. Cheney, PhD.
Children & Youth Studies
International Institute of Social Studies
The Hague, Netherlands

Prezi available at http://bit.ly/bloodbinds

Taken & Never Returned: the Stuart Bukenya case
The moral and political economies of international adoption are pressing Ugandans to change their thinking about kinship and belonging to more mutable forms...for the sake of keeping Ugandan children in Uganda.
Ugandan kinship
becoming more mutable?
ambivalence about Ugandan children 'going out' through ICA

'our family's children' vs. 'our nation's children'
"I think in Uganda most people are not so convinced with the idea of adopting other people's kids, and this is a mentality we need to change."
"We need to take care of ourselves, take care of our children. They are all our children, and the more of us who take on a child here, the better our children will be and the better our future of our country will be."
-binder of kinship ties
- carrier of essential characteristics and diseases inherited from biological parents
Full transcript