In May 2023, Queen’s University Belfast School of Law hosted a 4-day international, hybrid, multi-disciplinary symposium, exploring the concept of origin deprivation as it relates to adoption and adoptees. Funded by a Global Research Partnership Development Award, the partner institution was the Korean Adoption Adoptee Research Network (‘KAARN’), with valuable guidance, support, and input also received from Professor Emily Hipchen, of Brown University/The Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (‘ASAC’). In this post, symposium organiser Dr Alice Diver introduces the conference and provides an overview of the LawPod mini-series she recorded to accompany the event.
Within the context of the symposium, the concept of origin deprivation was taken to include the various losses of genetic identity, denials of natal ancestry, and the absence of familial kinship ties. The academics and NGOs presenting papers were either themselves adoptees (intercountry and domestic) or had a deep interest in – or some connection with – adoption, and the differing interpretations of origin and identity that are often relevant to the study of it. They hailed from Australia, Canada, South Korea, the United States, Ireland, the U.K., Sweden, Switzerland, and Mexico. Their disciplines included Philosophy, Critical Adoption Studies, Law, Intercultural Studies, Literature, Hellenic Studies, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Kinship Care, Human Rights, and Social Welfare. Delegates from NGOs presenting online or in-person includedChild Identity Protection (CHiP) and Kinship Care NI. Representatives from AdoptNI and the Scottish Adult Adoptee Movement (‘SAAM’) were also in attendance. Northern Ireland’s Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan, and the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey (Lord Justice of Appeal) kindly delivered keynote talks on the subject of adoption. Over the course of the symposium we recorded two LawPod episodes with participants.
The first podcast was a discussion – recorded on the opening day of the symposium – between two of KAARN’s founders, Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen, (Veritas Research Centre, Yonsei University, Seoul), and Ryan Gustafsson (University of Melbourne), and leading Critical Adoption Studies Scholar Tobias Hübinette (Karlstad University, Sweden). In it, they speak of their research, and of their connections to adoption. Issues included: the right to original identity, adoptee activism, alternative life scenarios and their potential consequences, the sense of ‘what might have been,’ and the various narratives that tend to surroundtransnational adoption, not least the sense of ‘ghostliness’ and the sometimes haunted aspects of our searches for natal origin.
The second podcast was recorded on the final day of the symposium, capturing a slightly longer conversation between Frances Latchford (York University, Toronto), Boon Young Han, (KAARN co-founder/ National University, Seoul), and John McLeod (University of Leeds). The issue of original identity was explored, in terms of its importance (or otherwise) and in respect of how we might best seek to (re)define or understand it. The human right to identity – if such a thing can be said to exist – was also evaluated against the rapidly changing landscape of new reproductive technologies and differing familial formations. The ongoing work of the Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and the significance of its findings due out in 2024/2025 – was also discussed.
A follow-up publication, based upon the papers presented, is planned for 2024 as a Special Issue of Adoption and Culture.
You can listen to the podcasts here – https://lawpod.org/podcast/avoiding-origin-deprivation-episode-1/
Episode 2 is forthcoming soon.
The videos of the presentations are also now live of the QUB School of Law Youtube Channel