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The Circulation of Children: Kinship,…

The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption, and Morality in Andean…

by Jessaca B. Leinaweaver

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If you’ve thought about reading an ethnography or an ‘academic’ anthropology book but hesitated for whatever reason, this may be the book for you.

In The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption and Morality in Andean Peru, Jessaca B. Leinweaver looks at how children in Ayachuco, Peru may be informally placed outside of their nuclear families with members of their extended families. The households into which the children may be placed or loaned may be those of blood relatives or those who are kin via compadrazo (co-parenting, God parenting). Similar types of child circulation are common to indigenous communities throughout the Andes, but in Ayachuco the legacy of violence as the birthplace of the Shining Path movement has increased the role of another option: orphanages.

Historically, there has always someone to take in orphaned children: relatives or compadrazos. During the years of the Shining Path and government reprisals, thousands upon thousands of people were killed and entire villages destroyed. Indigenous populations bore the brunt of the assault. When children were orphaned, sometimes there was no one left able or willing to care for them and the children were placed in institutions. Although the violence in the Ayachuco region has ended, orphanages have become a part of the child circulation system as a temporary care solution. Where there are orphanages, there are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government bureaucracies and international adoptions. NGOs and the Peruvian government don’t always recognize that a family placing a child with others isn’t necessarily abandonment: in most cases, it’s an attempt to find some better opportunity for the child. The best of intentions, however, do not ensure a positive outcome.

The Circulation of Children is one of the most accessible ethnographies I’ve ever read. In fact, it won the 2010 Margaret Mead Award, jointly sponsored by the Society for Applied Anthropology and American Anthropology Society, which is given to a ‘young’ scholar whose work has a meaningful appeal to non-scholars.

Anyone thinking about an international adoption from Peru should read The Circulation of Children (note that Leinaweaver isn’t anti-adoption, but she is concerned about the lack of assistance that leads to children being available for adoption). Also, anyone who will be living or volunteering in the Andes would have a much greater understanding of rural family structure after reading it. And then, of course, anyone with an interest in anthropology, ethnography, indigenous peoples or Peru would potentially find reading book an illuminating experience.
  Dejah_Thoris | Jun 6, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0822341972, Paperback)

In this vivid ethnography, Jessaca B. Leinaweaver explores “child circulation,” informal arrangements in which indigenous Andean children are sent by their parents to live in other households. At first glance, child circulation appears tantamount to child abandonment. When seen in that light, the practice is a violation of international norms regarding children’s rights, guidelines that the Peruvian state relies on in regulating legal adoptions. Leinaweaver demonstrates that such an understanding of the practice is simplistic and misleading. Her in-depth ethnographic analysis reveals child circulation to be a meaningful, pragmatic social practice for poor and indigenous Peruvians, a flexible system of kinship that has likely been part of Andean lives for centuries. Child circulation may be initiated because parents cannot care for their children, because a childless elder wants company, or because it gives a young person the opportunity to gain needed skills.

Leinaweaver provides insight into the emotional and material factors that bring together and separate indigenous Andean families in the highland city of Ayacucho. She describes how child circulation is intimately linked to survival in the city, which has had to withstand colonialism, economic isolation, and the devastating civil war unleashed by the Shining Path. Leinaweaver examines the practice from the perspective of parents who send their children to live in other households, the adults who receive them, and the children themselves. She relates child circulation to international laws and norms regarding children’s rights, adoptions, and orphans, and to Peru’s history of racial conflict and violence. Given that history, Leinaweaver maintains that it is not surprising that child circulation, a practice associated with Peru’s impoverished indigenous community, is alternately ignored, tolerated, or condemned by the state.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:08 -0400)

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Duke University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Duke University Press.

Editions: 0822341816, 0822341972

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