Attachment as Affective Assimilation: Discourses on Love and Kinship in the Context of Transnational Adoption in Denmark

Lene Myong & Mons Bissenbakker - NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research


This article attempts to initiate a critical dialogue on the politics of love and attachment by investigating the way in which the concept of attachment governs the field of transnational adoption. We take our starting point in an analysis of a collection of background articles, teaching materials, and interviews produced by child psychologists as well as instructions to and testimonies from adopters. Reading the material through Sara Ahmed’s notion of affective orientation and Lauren Berlant’s critical deconstruction of love, we argue that the texts popularize and instrumentalize John Bowlby’s framework of attachment theory in ways that connect attachment to specific notions of love. Even though the aim seems to be the strengthening of intimate familial ties in adoptive families and ensuring feelings of kinship and security for the adoptee, the notion of attachment-as-love simultaneously organizes a narrative logic that positions the adoptee in a deadlock between pathologization and the demand for affective assimilation into the adoptive family. Our reading seeks to invite a more critical approach to notions of the attachment paradigm as an idealized route to affective belonging and psychological well-being for adoptees.