Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins: A Foucauldian by Sally Sales (auth.)

By Sally Sales (auth.)

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Additional info for Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins: A Foucauldian History

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It could not elevate family fortunes to noble estates. , p. 127). For the middle classes, a healthy sexuality was valued in the same way that the nobility valued the hereditary line of descent. Here, knowing who you 24 Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins were was inextricably bound up with knowing where you had come from. As Foucault (1978, p. 118) makes clear below: the analysis of hereditary was placing sex (sexual relations, venereal diseases, matrimonial alliances, perversions) in a position of ‘biological responsibility’ with regard to the species: not only could sex be affected by its own diseases, it could also, if it was not controlled, transmit diseases or create others that would afflict future generations.

Illegitimacy was reconfigured in the light of these changes in how parenting was understood. The psychological responsibility of parents for children constructed illegitimacy as a sexually immoral transmission to a child, disturbing its sexuality into the wrong channels and making its removal to new parents a reparative necessity. This immediately opened up the possibility of substitute kinship. However, the place of original kinship was considered so fundamental that it could only be relinquished with consent and not transferred against family wishes.

Yet, in the early 1920s, some 80 years later, the illegitimate child began to be understood as a ‘problem’ that adoption could address. What happened in that space of time to effect such a transformation in child welfare policy and practice? The emergence of adoption as a solution to illegitimacy has to be understood as an effect of a number of transformations that took place in the nineteenth century. Drawing on Foucault’s analysis in History of Sexuality, Volume I (1978), this chapter will explore those changes that were central to the eventual inauguration of adoption in 1926.

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