Adopted Genealogies: Identity in Adoptee Heritage Camps
This is a project about space, identity, and history. It is a project that seeks to theorize identity as closely connected to the spaces and histories in and through which identity is lived. The project examines Korean adoptees' identity construction through an analysis of Korean adoptee heritage camps. Adoptee heritage camps are summer camps designed for Korean adoptees and their adoptive parents, with the stated purpose of reconnecting adoptees to their "birth culture." The camps engage adopted children in cultural activities such as Korean crafts and sports, with the underlying assumption that such exposure is critical to adoptees' sense of identity and wholeness. This project traces the history of adoptee heritage camps, locating them within a broader tradition of American camping dating back to the turn of the twentieth century. The contextualization of heritage camp within a wider social and historical framework helps us examine the function of specific discourses of gender, family, nature, origins, and citizenship that animate heritage camps in the contemporary moment. To undertake an analysis of heritage camps, I look to theorist Michel Foucault's notions of genealogy and heterotopia. Heterotopia, according to Foucault, refers to paradoxical spaces that invert, reflect, and disrupt the rules that normatively govern spaces. I suggest that heritage camps be seen as heterotopias, for they reference but also disrupt iconic, normative constructions of summer camp. Foucault's genealogical methodology is also useful in theorizing heritage camp. Genealogical histories trace the branching, and non-causative relationships that link historical moments. In choosing to write a genealogical history of heritage camp, I allude to an understanding of "genealogy" that inverts its colloquial usage within the lexicon of kinship and instead posits its use to describe juxtapositional relationships and the commensurate representation of apparently contradictory concepts. Heritage camp, represented genealogically, emerges as a paradoxical and heterotopic space reflective of the complex experience of adoptee identity itself. This project seeks to represent heritage camp, its history, and Korean adoptee identity as heterotopic, creative spaces open to interpretation and inquiry.
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