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Public Issues in Anthropological Perspective
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A Sealed and Secret Kinship
The Culture of Policies and Practices in American Adoption
Judith S. Modell
232 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-57181-077-9 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (May 2002)
ISBN 978-1-57181-324-4 $29.95/£21.00 Pb Published (May 2002)
"Accessible and interesting, the book is suitable for all academic and public libraries." · Choice
"This book offers a thought-provoking exposition of the ironies of adoption, and by extension, the inconsistencies of our social attitudes toward parenting in general." · Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
Adoption has long been a controversial subject in the United States as well as in other western countries, but never more so than in the past three decades. Why that is and how public attention affects the decisions made by those who arrange, legalize, and experience adoptive kinship constitutes the subject of this book. Adoption, the author argues, touches on major preoccupations we all have: who we are; why we are what we are; the balance of "nature" and "culture" in self-definition; the conflict between individual rights and social order.
The problematic nature of adoption in western societies is effectively contrasted by the author with cultures in many other parts of the world in which children are exchanged frequently, openly, and happily. There is no stigma, often even a high value, placed on being the adopted child in a family. This comparative perspective brings into sharp relief American, and by implication other western, policies that reflect a very different notion of kinship and family. Adoption thus reveals itself as one of the keys to western ideas about human nature, the person, rights, privacy, and family relationships.
Judith S. Modell is Professor of Anthropology, History and Art at Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently the director of the Center for the Arts in Society at the school.
Subject: Applied Anthropology
Area: North America
Chapter 1. Opening the Subject of Adoption
Chapter 2. Banishing Secrecy, Banishing Confidentiality, and Opening Adoption
Chapter 3. From "Drifting" to "Permanency" — Adoption Policy and Practice
Chapter 4. Taking (Care of) the Children—Adoptive Parents in the Twenty-first Century
Chapter 5. Opening the Confines of Kinship — Twenty-first Century American Child Placement
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