Global families, global inequalities. The politics of child relinquishment, search and reunion in transnational adoption

Start - End 
2017 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Andean studies
Indigenous studies
Subaltern studies
Postcolonial studies
Feminist theory
Kinship studies
Family studies
Critical adoption studies
Latin American studies



The proposed research aims to investigate the transnational adoption of children from the perspectives of actors in ‘sending’ countries. These perspectives have received insufficient attention in adoption research so far, leaving a major gap in our understanding of the complexities and social mechanisms that structure transnational adoption. Through an empirical study in the cities of La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia, this study seeks to investigate the social, economic and cultural contexts that shape practices of child relinquishment, search and reunion between adoptees and their first families. Drawing on participant observation and interviews with first families, local adoption intermediaries and anti-adoption activists, the study aims to provide greater insight into the circumstances, ideologies, and power dynamics that shape decisions about child relinquishment and into the gendered, classed, and raced narratives of mothering, kinship, and families that are played out in transnational adoption policy and practice. A more profound understanding of how transnational adoption is enacted and understood in the local contexts of sending countries, is particularly important in light of the growing global criticism that blames the transnational adoption system for prioritizing the interests of ‘receiving’ countries.



Phd Student(s)


Sophie Withaeckx (co-supervisor)

Department of Philosophy - Maastricht University