Conference on the History and Practices of International Adoptions:

Designing Modern Families:
International Perspectives on ‚Intercountry’ and Transracial Adoptions

Convener: Dr. Silke Hackenesch

November 17-18, 2017

Program flyer


International adoptions continue to attract attention. Though a
seemingly private affair, they are often embedded in global politics and
unequal power formations. They confuse since they challenge or subvert
dominant notions of maternity, reproduction, belonging, identity and
family. This is especially true for transracial adoptions that have been
regarded as deviant, unconventional or revolutionary since their
emergence in the late 1940s. Until then, adoption agencies in the US had
attempted to find a “match” between adoptive family and the adoptee –
meaning accordance in terms of race, social status, religion and

Yet this was about to change dramatically after the Second World War,
which is generally defined as a “watershed moment” in the historiography
of Childhood Studies and more specifically Adoption Studies. US-American
soldiers sent to Europe during or after the Second World War, and
eventually to Korea and Vietnam, produced significant numbers of
children in those countries, many of whom were adopted by American

The conference explores the experiences of children who have been
adopted with a special emphasis on transnational and transracial
adoptions. Topics include the international adoption of South Korean
children, the adoption of Afro-German children by African American
families after World War Two, adoption and missionary work, literary
representations of adoption and changing notions of motherhood, family
and childhood as reflected in adoption practices.

The program features scholars from the United States, Germany as well as
Scandinavia with various disciplinary backgrounds.

With a keynote lecture by Prof. Laura Briggs (chair of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass Amherst)

Kassel University
Kassel, Germany