A great deal of both scholarly and public attention has been paid to questions of nature versus nurture
in understanding identity and family construction in adoptees, yet much less attention has been given to the ways that power shapes the social reproduction of families through adoption. In this feminist interdisciplinary self-reflexive ethnographic research, I enter the world of online genealogy sites to critically explore the social practice of constructing a family tree as an adoptee. I explore genealogy as a culturally and historically specific representation of patriarchal heteronormative whiteness. I argue that adoptees’ liminal locations between socially understood categories of nature and nurture embedded in online family heritage websites make evident the ways that genealogical templates and stories reproduce mainstream family ideology through the erasure of “illegitimacy”. I consider what I found in my adoptive family history, critically exploring my “legitimate” relationship to my family in relation to the “illegitimate” (and unrecognized) relationship between my family and an enslaved child transferred as property between family members in 1813. This research makes visible power inequalities governing family reproduction at macro levels by exploring the contradictions and slippages regarding family “legitimacy” in micro level online genealogical constructions of adoptees’ family trees.
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