settler colonial studies blog

Adopting out, opting in: Joseph M. Pierce, ‘Adopted: Trace, Blood, and Native Authenticity’, Critical Ethnic Studies, 3, 2, 2017, pp. 57-76

Abstract: In the United States, extra-tribal adoption policies have typically been studied in relation to the enactment and enduring viability of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, which aims to prevent indigenous children from being removed from their communities. However, little critical attention has been paid to those who were adopted out, and the ways in which those children and subsequent generations negotiate essential questions of belonging, community, and return. This article argues that federal policies of extra-tribal adoption have constrained how adoptees are able to narrate the possibilities of relating with and returning to indigenous communities. It takes the author’s own history with adoption as a point of departure for exploring both the affective and narrative problems that arise when a child is adopted out, claiming that this process is fundamentally queer. The text focuses on three central issues: the archival trace of genealogy, the relational possibilities of blood, and the difficulty of performing authenticity in such cases. In doing so, the article proposes that only through the intersection of all three of these central issues is it possible to narrate the queerness of extra-tribal adoption as an interface between the self and collective belonging.