We are family: Trans-racial adoption and the work of assembling and practicing family

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Sari K. Biklen


Race, Korea, Family, Trans-racial adoption, Adoption

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


We Are Family , is a qualitative study of White parents who adopt a child/children from Korea. I investigate and analyze the ways parents who adopt from Korea think about family, including what parental and child characteristics promote and/or interfere with adoption, how families are assembled via adoption (and trans-racial adoption in particular), and how parents practice and accomplish family in public spaces. My research illuminates some of the ways in which contemporary racism and sexism interferes with (and promotes) certain parents, children, family forms, and family practices as desirable. I argue that adopting children needs to be understood not only within the context of parental preconceptions of family and the desirable child, but also as a consequence of existing structures of race, class and gender.

My project also attends to the work involved in assembling and producing family, including the material and emotion work. I investigate aspects of family work that are more particular to families who adopt trans-racially, since the racial composition of their families frequently prompts them to develop strategies to address curiosity and comments about their child and family. In addition, I argue that there is a gendered aspect to family work and that women's labor in particular has too often been ignored or trivialized as skilled labor that is vital to sustaining family life.

In sum, this study recognizes that families, family life and family processes are important sites of study because they are constructed and experienced in specific social, political and historical moments. As such, families can be sites of struggle, contestation, negotiation, resistance and accommodation.


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