Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, National Chengchi University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
Adopted by the World: China and the Rise of Global Intimacy

My dissertation investigates the origins of international adoption and international child sponsorship in 1930s and 1940s China in order to illustrate China's crucial but unrecognized role in shaping global humanitarian practices. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Chinese child welfare institutions pioneered a new form of child welfare work in which private citizens around the world "adopted" Chinese children by paying for them to live in orphanages in China. Under the adoption model, Chinese children and their foreign "foster parents" built intimate relationships through the exchange of photographs, gifts, and translated letters that used familial terms of address. Emulating similar programs operating on a local scale throughout China, Chinese child welfare institutions initially framed adoption programs in terms of Confucian universalism and Chinese traditions of adoption. During the 1940s and 1950s, international organizations, many founded by Christian missionaries, adapted the adoption model for their own child welfare work across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, rearticulating it in the languages of humanitarianism and Christian love. By the close of the 1950s, what had begun as a particularly Chinese form of child welfare work had transformed into the global phenomena of international adoption and child sponsorship, which remain among the most culturally significant forms of global humanitarianism today. The relationships formed between children and their foreign foster parents via adoption and sponsorship programs constituted a new form of affective and material exchange across national, racial, and cultural boundaries that I call "global intimacy." By interrogating the ideological dimensions of adoption programs and tracing their global expansion during the 1940s and 1950s, my dissertation will highlight the historical intertwining of intimate relations and international relations during the WWII and Cold War eras.