Keynote Lectures on Friday 

The de-kinning of first mothers  by Dr. Riitta Högbacka

In intercountry adoption the most common perspective has been that of the countries and families receiving adopted children. My paper seeks to reverse this by introducing the other party to adoptions: the women and families whose children are adopted. Utilising postcolonial frameworks, I show that the de-kinning of these mothers in the Global South, i.e. the removal of them from the circle of adoptive kin relations, is a consequence of the kinning process, through which the adoptive family in the Global North is made. I will examine the processes of the de-kinning of the first family through the practices of adoption social workers and the adoption system, in the ways adoptive families are conceptualised and formed, as well as trace the context and constraints that disconnect first mothers from their children. The paper utilises interviews with 30 Finnish adoptive families, 35 South African first mothers and 10 South African adoption social workers. Juxtaposing the perspectives of the various parties to adoption forces us to reconsider the meanings of such common words used in adoption discourse as ‘care’, ‘parenting’, ‘family’, ‘choice’, ‘consent’, ‘permanence’ or ‘abandonment’. The paper ends by considering possibilities of re-kinning first families through decolonising adoption, reproductive justice and the concept of the transnational family.


Short bio

Dr Riitta Högbacka is a Docentin Sociology, University of Helsinki, Finland, and Senior Fellow, Centre for Children, Law, and Ethics, Samford University, USA. She worked as a University Lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, for several years, as well as spending a year as Scholar-in-Residence, Beatrice Bain Research Group, University of California at Berkeley, USA. She currently works as Lecturer and grant researcher at the University of Helsinki. She has just started a four-year research project on the global hair trade funded by Kone Foundation in Finland. Her research interests cover globalisation, global inequality, changing family forms, and intercountry adoption. Her book Global Families, Inequality and Transnational Adoption: The De-Kinning of First Mothers came out by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. The book was awarded Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2017 in the US. 

From Antiracist Solidarity Symbols to Perfect Assimilated Others for the Populist Right: Transnational adoptees in the new multicultural Sweden by dr. Tobias Hübinette


This presentation chronicles and outlines the development of the cultural and political images and representations of transnational adoptees from the 1960s’ progressive and homogenous Sweden to the new multicultural Sweden of the 2010s characterized by the populist right. This historization starts with the emergence of transnational adoption to Sweden in the 1960s and continues with the exploding numbers of transnational adoption in the 1970s when transnational adoptees were associated with left-liberal Third World solidarity and antiracist diversity and ends in 2010s’ Sweden in a contemporary era marked by the populist right-wing party the Sweden Democrats which is portraying the adoptees as the perfect assimilated immigrants. The media texts and political propaganda material that are used as empirical sources for this presentation are also juxtaposed and interspersed with the experiences of the adoptees themselves as they appear in literary and autobiographical texts written by transnational adoptees from the 1980s and 1990s and onwards and with an emphasis on how they perceive that they are viewed and treated by the majority society and by white Swedes.


Short bio

Tobias Hübinette has a Ph.D. in Korean studies from Stockholm University and is an Associate Professor in Intercultural Education and a Lecturer in Intercultural studies at the Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies at Karlstad University. He has been active within the fields of critical adoption studies and Korean adoption studies and he is currently working with the research project ”Racializing Sweden: Narratives of a new Swedishness” which includes literary and autobiographical works written by transnational adoptees.

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