Fulbright Forum – October 30, 2015

Catherine Ceniza Choy

Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America

In this Fulbright forum, Catherine Ceniza Choy will present some of the major findings of her book Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America, which was published by NYU Press in 2013. In the last fifty years, transnational adoption—specifically, the adoption of Asian children—has exploded in popularity as an alternative path to family making. Despite the cultural acceptance of this practice, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the factors that allowed Asian international adoption to flourish.
In Global Families, Choy unearths the little-known historical origins of Asian international adoption in the United States. Beginning with the post-World War II presence of the U.S. military in Asia, she reveals how mixed-race children born of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese women and U.S. servicemen comprised one of the earliest groups of adoptive children.

Based on extensive archival research, Global Families moves beyond one-dimensional portrayals of Asian international adoption as either a progressive form of U.S. multiculturalism or as an exploitative form of cultural and economic imperialism. Rather, Choy acknowledges the complexity of the phenomenon, illuminating both its radical possibilities of a world united across national, cultural, and racial divides through family formation and its strong potential for reinforcing the very racial and cultural hierarchies it sought to challenge.

Choy will focus her talk on the early history of Korean international adoption (1950s-1970s) in the context of the history of Korean migration to the United States. She will conclude with some reflections about the book’s subject matter.

Catherine Ceniza Choy is a 2015-2016 Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer at Yonsei University. She teaches courses on Asian American history and Asian American women’s history at Yonsei University’s Underwood International College. She is a professor and a former chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.