Neoliberalism, global "whiteness," and the desire for adoptive invisibility in US parental memoirs of eastern european adoption

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This essay explores the recent surge in US parental memoirs of adoption from Russia and Ukraine. This analysis of the most influential works speculatively highlights underexamined connections between the US media focus on adoption failures and the centrality of race in adoptions from Eastern Europe. In the memoirs under examination, parents eschew the traditional humanitarian narrative of adoption and portray themselves as consumers who have the right to select "white" children from an international adoption market in order to form families whose members look as though they could be biologically related. The authors' belief that they share a preexisting racial identity with children from Eastern Europe expands to the global plane the US notion that "whiteness" accords racial and economic privilege to all those of European descent in the United States. While the myth of a shared racial identity confers immense and immediate privilege onto Eastern European adoptees even before their arrival in the United States, it also enables parents to ignore their children's national differences, as well as the neoliberal transformations in the former USSR that have shaped the conditions for their children's relinquishment and displacement from their birth countries, languages, and cultures through transnational adoption. Coupled with the emergence of a neoliberal adoption market, the search for adoptive invisibility may help explain the significant numbers of abuse and death cases of Eastern European adoptees at the hands of US parents as compared to other adoptee populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Transnational American Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Eastern european immigration
  • Ethnic studies
  • Transnational adoption
  • Whiteness studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • General Arts and Humanities


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