Cultural Tourism in Transnational Adoption and the China Daily Interview

Every so often I am asked to comment on a news story about adoption. This was the case when NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewed me about the seven year old boy heartlessly returned via airline to Russia or when Good Morning America online wanted more information about Genetic Sexual Attraction. Sometimes I feel good about these interviews and the information I was able to convey. Other times I am left feeling like I could have said more such as the Creating A Family Interview about adoption disruptions and dissolutions.

Last week I was approached by China Daily, a Bejing based, English newspaper, to offer recommendations/advice in regard to adoptive families relocating to China to foster the identity development of adopted Chinese children. The article “Positive attitude to adoption” can be found here. I offered two pages of recommendations, all proofread by my mom, a former English teacher and resident proof reader to everything I do, and fully aware of the possibility that none of it could end up in the article. But the most important information did. Here is an excerpt of my response email:

I know the answer to #6 is not a popular one among adoptive parents because it calls into question white privilege and the need for them to make some difficult decisions regarding their families. I would really hope that you would include this response as many families will read China Daily versus doing research at a University, like I do for both my educational pursuits and my practice. I am not a Chinese adopted person, but am a Colombian adopted person. I feel quite strongly about this subject and greatly enjoy my work with this population and children from all over the world. I truly appreciate being asked to contribute.

Here is question #6

6) If adoptive families who would like to live in China don’t have a chance to do so — or are not comfortable living in a foreign country — what other helpful experiences or activities closer to home would you recommend?

– I know that some adoptive American families send their kids to Chinese language school, enroll them in Chinese cultural/art classes or regularly celebrate Chinese holidays. How important are activities such as this in raising an adopted Chinese child?

The answer below is for both questions/comments

It is extremely important that adoptive families understand the concept of “Cultural Keeping” versus “Cultural Tourism”. Quiroz’s 2012 article examining discourses by Chinese and Guatemalan adoptive parents on listserves highlights the benefits of Cultural Keeping, defined as those activities that provide cultural socialization including contacts and engagement with members of the child’s ethnic/racial group, memberships in cultural organizations, and relocation to a community that shares racial and ethnic similarity to the adopted child. “Cultural Tourism” is the most common way adoptive families incorporate their child’s heritage in family life via attending culture camps, purchasing and displaying cultural artifacts, attending cultural celebrations, but not necessarily fully embracing the child’s racial/ ethnic community in their daily living. It is important that adoptive families strive towards Cultural Keeping to fully help their child develop a sense of biculturalism versus Cultural Tourism which is much easier to enact but has not been shown to be nearly as beneficial in helping an adoptee develop biculturalism. Another excellent source of information on this topic is the Beyond Culture Camp study (2009) from the Evan B. Donaldson Institute

The reporter included this information in the article. If you are interested in reading the 2012 article on cultural tourism the reference can be found below.

Quiroz, P.A. (2012). Cultural tourism in transnational adoption: “Staged authenticity” and its implications for adopted children.Journal of Family Issues,33 (4), 527-555. doi:10.1177/0192513X11418179.