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Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology

On-line version ISSN 1809-4341

Abstract

FONSECA, Claudia. The de-kinning of birthmothers: reflections on maternity and being human. Vibrant, Virtual Braz. Anthr. [online]. 2011, vol.8, n.2, pp. 307-339. ISSN 1809-4341.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1809-43412011000200014.

Bringing together different strands of social analysis - the work on violence and subjectivity, legal anthropology and studies on kinship practices -, I propose in this article to treat a woman's giving away her child as a form of social suffering. Rather than focusing on the more spectacular phenomenon of "traffic" and "abduction" of children, I approach the "everyday violence" in adoption practices. In particular, I propose to demonstrate how legal plenary adoption emerges as a form of state-organized bureaucratic violence that "further burdens experience". Following this line of reasoning, I investigate the "de-kinning" of birthmothers, i.e., the institutionalized effort that goes into undoing the naturalized category of biological motherhood. However, my major question, treated in the second half of this text, will be: how is this process experienced by those most involved? Altogether, my purpose here is to follow through on situations in which the analysis of discourse and practice reveal the ambivalences of social experience, introducing new elements into policy debates, and enlarging on the creative possibilities of kinship's "plasticity".

Keywords : violence and subjectivity; legal anthropology; kinship practices; social suffering.

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