CANCELED: Making and Unmaking Families: Stratified Reproduction, Child Circulation and Transnational Adoption from China

12-1 pm

PSTC Seminar Room 205, Mencoff Hall

Júlia Vich-Bertran, Postdoctoral Fellow in Population Studies, Brown University


Drawing on 27 months of uninterrupted fieldwork in a Chinese rural province, in this presentation Vich-Bertran counterposes the narratives of Chinese rural citizens and state workers to make two interlinked arguments; 1) China's Transnational Adoptive Program (CTAP) simultaneously shaped and was shaped by the country's child circulation logics, kinship values and national politics of reproduction. She shows that we can only understand transnational adoption if we understand kinship ideologies and practices of not only the "receiving" but also the "sending" countries. 2) Because the CTAP was shaped by previous kinship values and governmental goals, it reproduced and intensified preexisting local social hierarchies organized according to cultural notions about family, gender, social power, class, citizenship, and nationality. These local hierarchies, which previously regulated the circulation—and immobility—of certain bodies, also predetermined who had the privilege to conceive, bear and raise children within the country. This part of the argument moves beyond the analyses of reproductive stratification (Colen 1995) between countries by revealing how reproductive inequalities within a country shape global processes. Vich-Bertran then places transnational adoption programs as part of a broader global system of transnational reproduction, of which reproductive tourism, commercial surrogacy, and global care chains are also part. This critical examination of transnational adoption reveals how transnational reproduction draws on and amplifies local stratification. Considering TAPs in this light broadens our understanding of how national and global political-economies intersect with domestic and transnational understandings of reproduction and nationhood. 

Vich-Bertran is an interdisciplinary researcher whose work sits at the intersection of kinship, migration, and transnationalism. In 2015, she was granted the Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (2016-2019) from the European Commission Research Council for her project “Origin stories: Chinese heritage tours and adoptive origin stories.” Using mixed-methods from the social sciences and humanities, the aim of this new research is to investigate the shifting meanings of family and national belonging in today’s globalized world by analyzing transnational kinning practices. Such work focuses on how American and Spanish adopters of Chinese children, the adopted children themselves, and other stakeholders involved in international adoptions re-define familial and national belonging both within China and across borders.

Initially trained as a psychologist, Vich-Bertran subsequently obtained a M.A. (with honors) and a doctoral degree (cum laude) in social and cultural anthropology at Universtiat Autònoma de Barcelona. After that, she moved to the Netherlands to become a postdoctoral fellow for the Maastricht Centre for Citizenship, Migration, and Development at Maastricht University. Her dissertation, “The Adoptive Itinerary between China-Spain. Traditional patterns and contemporary trends of institutionalized care and child circulation in and from China” (2012), was financed by a four-year FPI grant from the Spanish Ministry of Education and won the extraordinary award for the best Ph.D. dissertation of that year.