Mediating Discourses of Transnational Adoption on the Internet

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Transnational (or intercountry) adoption is a global phenomenon with a diverse range of practices which are increasingly under scrutiny. Notable differences are found in practices across both ‘sending’ countries (such as China, Columbia, India, South Africa and South Korea, and ‘receiving’ countries (such as Denmark, Finland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia) (Selman, 2000). In this paper, we focus on transnational adoption in Denmark and English-speaking countries, primarily the USA. The Scandinavian countries have signed the Hague Convention (1993), an international agreement on transnational adoption, and in those countries the adoption process is thoroughly regulated at all stages by the state. A few private agencies exist but they must be fully accredited -- for example, by the Danish Ministry of Justice in Denmark. Countries such as the USA have a much more liberalized ‘market’ with less state regulation, so private sector agencies and lawyers flourish to facilitate parent-initiated adoptions (Dorow, 2002; Williams, 1994). The result is that quite different discourses are mobilized that are often more legalistic, individualistic and parent-centered. In both cases though, the prospective adopter(s) is/are an intense site of inspection, an intersection of a broad range of medical, judicial, educational, psychological and linguistic practices. Increasingly, adopters have been using the Internet to prepare for and monitor the adoption process and to publish accounts of their experiences. Our goal in this paper is to document some of the ways in which mediational means are appropriated or contested in virtual spaces and the social consequences of these appropriations. Our case study focuses particularly on the discourses of adoption and the mediated actions of adoptive parents prior to their first contact with the adopted child. Research studies of transnational adoption are increasingly common, but come predominantly from psychological, psycho-social or social welfare perspectives. In contrast, we take a discourse studies approach that develops a theoretical and methodological bridge between mediated discourse analysis (MDA) and other approaches to mediation, agency and action. With this approach we trace a host of discourses and contingent practices that are heterogeneously assembled to ‘translate’ a child from one familial ‘place’ or nexus of practice in the world to another, crossing linguistic, socio-cultural, racial, class and national boundaries. Transnational adoption is a case in which nature and culture, child and actor, as well as kinship and belonging, are clearly problematized in nexus of practice (Howell, 1999). In particular, we focus on the crucial role of the Internet and the set of mediational means it makes available to prospective parents, specifically their personal web pages and online diaries that anticipate the ‘transnational’ mobility of the ‘waiting’ child.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiscourse in Action : Introduction to Mediated Discourse Analysis
EditorsSigrid Norris, Rodney Jones
Number of pages11
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication date2005
ISBN (Print)0415366178
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Transnational adoption
  • Mediated action
  • Websites
  • Multimodality
  • Nexus of practice
  • Discourse

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  • Mediating Discourses

    Raudaskoski, P. L. & McIlvenny, P. B.


    Project: Research

    Cite this

    McIlvenny, P., & Raudaskoski, P. L. (2005). Mediating Discourses of Transnational Adoption on the Internet. In S. Norris, & R. Jones (Eds.), Discourse in Action: Introduction to Mediated Discourse Analysis (pp. 62-72). Routledge.