A comparative study of relations of care in the context of transnational adoption and guardianships of unaccompanied minors

Begin - Einde 
2013 - 2014 (afgewerkt)
Andere instituten 
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies



This comparative study of the relations of care of (1) transnational adoptees and their adoptive parents, (2) unaccompanied refugee minors and their guardians and (3) children in domestic foster care and their foster parents, will investigate how caretakers and children within these different models of care describe their relationships. This study focuses on (1) the way prevailing ideas on kinship and relatedness are negotiated within relations of care that are forged beyond the biological nuclear family and (2) how raced, gendered and classed unequal power relations interfere with the capacity of these groups of caretakers to empower the children under their care. The hypothesis that will be tested is that these different care arrangements are able to develop into significant and longstanding relationships, yet that they go hand in hand with very different imaginations, motivations and expectations that strongly influence their capacity to develop into satisfactory and empowering relationships for both carers and children.

The geographical setting is the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium. This focus is particularly interesting due a prevailing homogeneity discourse that tends to depict immigrants and refugees as a threat to the ‘autochthonous’ culture, while transnational adoption is generally accepted as a valuable way of building families, often preferred over domestic foster care. The study draws upon a social constructionist, reflexive approach, and uses a variety of qualitative research methods, such as in-depth interviewing and observation, but also other sources (such as policy documents, media reports,...) will be taken into account to contextualize interviews and observations.

The study is highly relevant, especially in view of current debates on refugees and the tenability of transnational adoption and in light of dominant discourses that fail to acknowledge possible advantages of intercultural relations. The study of differences and similarities between the cases will provide insights in new ways families are forged in light of growing globalization. It also can deepen our insights into how difference is ‘managed’ and how these ways of managing diversity are able to empower subaltern groups, or on the contrary, reinforce processes of racialization and hierarchization.