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Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption and the Negotiation of Family Difference

Friday, November 7, 2008

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Media Contact: Sue Stevens

ARLINGTON - A book on international adoptions by Dr. Heather Jacobson, an assistant professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Arlington has been released by Vanderbilt University Press at a most opportune time. November is National Adoption Month.

Since the early 1990s, approximately 250,000 children born abroad have been adopted into the United States. Nearly half of these children have come from China or Russia. Jacobson's book, "Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference," is the first comparative examination of the recent wave of Chinese and Russian adoptions. Jacobson focuses on a relatively new social phenomenon, the practice by international adoptive parents, particularly mothers, of incorporating their children's cultures of origin into their families' lives.

"Culture keeping" is now standard in the adoption world, though few adoptive parents, the majority of whom are white and native-born, have experience with the ethnic practices of their children's homelands prior to adopting. Jacobson follows white adoptive mothers as they navigate culture keeping: from their motivations, to the pressures and constraints they face, to the content of their actual practices concerning names, food, toys, travel, cultural events and communities of belonging. Through her interviews, she explores how women think about their children, their families and themselves as mothers as they labor to construct or resist ethnic identities for their children. Jacobson found the children may be perceived as birth children, because they are white, or as adopted, because of racial difference.

The choices these women make about culture, Jacobson argues, offer a window into dominant ideas of race and the "American Family," and into how social differences are conceived and negotiated in the United States.

Visit for more information on the book.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.