White Parents, Black Care: Entanglements of Race and Kinship in American Transracial Adoption | KA Mariner | American Anthropologist Association

In Chicago, transracial adoption often unites white parents and Black children who are visibly different from one another and share no biogenetic connection. Although anthropologists in the United States have long understood that kinship is not biological, the enduring cultural grounding of Blackness in ancestry and the body repeatedly upsets a solely social understanding of kinship. Within the context of transracial adoption, contested claims to kinship are mediated through the racialized body of the child, namely, through hair and its care. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with adoptive parents, social workers, and hair‐care professionals in and around Chicago between 2009 and 2016, this article examines two related forms of Black care centered on the child’s hair: (1) a Black gaze directed toward transracially adopted children, and (2) the outsourcing of Black hair‐care and hair‐care training to Black women. By asserting racial connection, these practices trouble adoptive claims to kinship. Although transracial adoption appears to challenge biological notions of kinship, it remains foundationally structured by them due to embodied understandings of race. [adoption, kinship, race, care, hair]

Scroll to Top