The Daughter’s Exchange by Eun Kyung Min

Great article using LoB in Social Text by Eun Kyung Min, who is one of the smartest, kindest and best people I know.

The Daughter’s Exchange in Jane Jeong Trenka’s The Language of Blood

Eun Kyung Min

The two most dominant twentieth-century theorizations about the exchange of daughters are Freudian psychoanalysis, which theorizes the psychic, libidinal exchange performed by the daughter of the mother for the father, and Lévi-Straussian anthropology, which theorizes the exchange of the daughter by her brothers and fathers through marriage. In both theories, the daughter’s exchange is a founding moment in the institution of culture. In this essay, I interrogate the relevance of these paradigms of daughter-exchange to the phenomenon of transnational adoption, where the daughter loses her mother even before she can exchange her mother for her father, and where the daughter is exchanged precisely not to extend kinship ties between the biological and adoptive families. Through a reading of Jane Jeong Trenka’s 2003 The Language of Blood, a memoir of growing up as a Korean adoptee in Minnesota, I explore the meaning of the failure of these kinship paradigms in transnational adoption and propose that the psychic and political economies of kinship need to be examined together in light of the growing global diaspora of transnational adoptees.


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