Can First Parents Speak? A Spivakean Reading of First Parents’ Agency and Resistance in Transnational Adoption

Atamhi Cawayu, Hari Prasad Sacré

This article analyses the search strategies of first families in Bolivia contesting the separation of their children through transnational adoption. These first parents’ claims to visibility and acknowledgement have remained largely ignored by adoption policy and scholarship, historically privileging the perspectives of actors in adoptive countries, such as adoptive parents and adoption professionals.

Filling in this gap, the authors discuss the search strategies employed by first families in Bolivia who desire a reunion with their child. Drawing on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s feminist postcolonial theory, the authors analyse ethnographic fieldwork with fourteen first families in Bolivia. They read how the agency of first parents, severely limited by the loss of legal rights through the adoption system, are caught in a double bind of dependency and possibility. While hegemonic adoption discourse portrays first parents as passive and consenting to the adoption system, the results of their study complicate this picture. Moreover, they argue that the search activity of the first parents can be read as a claim and request to revise and negotiate their consent to transnational adoption. Ultimately, they read first parents’ search efforts as resistance to the closed nature of the adoption system, which restricts them in their search for their children