ANT10 Carsten

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'Knowing where you've come from': ruptures and continuities of time and kinship in narratives of adoption reunions


  • Adoption signals ruptures in relationships with birth parents.
  • Those who seek out their birth kin are asserting their own agency and are engaged in constructing continuities of identity which link together their past, present and future.
  • The search for physical continuities may motivate adoptees to search for their kin, although similarities become less important after reunions have occurred.
  • Biology does not imply endurance: time. Reunions cannot constitute the flow of time that is central to kinship. Thus, biology is an insufficient connection.
  • Reunions wiht birth kin can fill a gap of biography, but they can only partially reconnect the past with the present.

Carsten 1997 The Heat of the Hearth

  • Kinship created through shared substance
  • eating together - once you have eaten together, you are kin. You may not marry this person as it is considered incest.
  • People brought together through habitation
  • A gadual process of creating physical connections with cohabitants of one house.

Carsten interviewed adopted people who had recntly been reunited with their birth kin. All had many family photos in their homes, underlining the fact that they had established their own conjugal…


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