Current Institutional Affiliation
JD Candidate, College of Law, Georgia State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Making Families Through Adoption: Legal Imaginaries and Cross-Class Adoption Practices in Morelos, Mexico

My project explores (1) how new legal initiatives and governmental practices that encourage the “full” adoption of poor children are reconfiguring the relationship of family and state in Mexico; and (2) the ways in which new legal conceptions of kinship reshape or censure other existing informal cross-class adoption practices related to domestic service. With the Mexican state’s adherence to international adoption conventions since the 1980s, and the shift towards the right in Mexican politics since 2000, federal and state-level governments adjusted existing codes starting in 1998, to facilitate the “full adoption” (adopción plena) of poor children. The reforms –which define “full adoption” as the creation of family ties that extinguish all previous kinship of the adopted child-, mark a move away from earlier “simple adoption” laws, which conceived adoption as form of “civil kinship” between two individuals that could be revoked. These previous laws provided tenuous regulation of widespread practices of informal adoption or “entenado”, in which wealthier families took in poor children either as domestic servants or because the mothers of those children worked as servants for the adopting mother. Through ethnographic research with adoptive families and the government agents charged with implementing adoption laws in the central Mexican state of Morelos, this research will provide an account of (1) the legal and administrative structure of adoption and the forms of inclusion and exclusion that they make possible; (2) the manner in which the state’s legal provisions of adoption are interpreted and translated into governmental practices within state agencies in charge of adoptions; and (3) the forms of relatedness that earlier and new adoption laws make possible, paying special attention to forms of belonging and exclusion that are created in different families.