Dance My Way There

My parents were always busy working. Most of my childhood was spent with my siblings at our grandparents which lived next door. My parents’ busyness drove themselves far away from us, but they still nature us to their fullest. My mother was always rushing every weekdays. She would wake us up for school and drops us off, goes back home babysit the little one and do chores, picks us up from school, drop us off at our grandparents, leave to work immediately, comes homes at midnight, showers, and then sleep. While my dad, wakes up early in the morning to got to work, comes home late at noon, makes us dinner, and puts us to sleep.

The busyness kept my parents from spending family time with us. When they were home on the weekends, they were just too tired to do anything so they would stay home, otherwise, they help out the relatives like the usual with the religious parties. I always wonder why my parents had to work so long everyday. As a young child at that time, I came up with two thoughts. First one was they were worked hard everyday so that they would buy candies and toys just for us, and secondly, was so we can move into a nice new house with lots of room for our family. Obviously those were just part of the reasons, the real reason was to keep they family healthy and live through this new economy. Being immigrants was hard on the family because my parents lack writing and speaking English so finding jobs was hard. Us, the children, we were expected to do good in school so we could get a good job for ourselves and help them out. They never ask us how we were doing in school, especially when we needed help most because being immigrants they had little knowledge of the new world. Never really gave us the chance to understand one another. I wouldn’t blame my parents for not being able to spend time with us because being immigrants working your way up in the America was difficult. A new language, economy, government, stereotype, and discrimination were some of the many things they face as immigrants.

In the book Busier Than Ever of chapter two about the the Trans, it states, “Binh and Sheila knew from experience how hard life could be, and they tried to shield their children from suffering as they had. They did this by utilizing adult-sponsored activities for their children in the fervent hope that this would hide the economic straits this family fallen into. More important, they expected their guidelines to lead their children along a path of educational and economic success at the same time as they reinforced strong family bonds.” (39). The example of this biological family enforces that family was most important. the parents chooses what is important and they will work around it if they have to. Of course this will create many buffers for both the parents and children because of work, childcare, and economic issues they face everyday and the children have education, activities inside and outside of school. The family will have hardships but overcoming it is just on the individuals’ will to change for the better.

It was the fact that my parents busyness was driven by the main structure of being immigrants. The structure led to many things they had to cope with such as the economy but it soon became a buffer as well. Also driven by the structure of the “American Dream,” they push us to be successful and didn’t want us to suffer as much as they did before coming to the United States of America. My parents didn’t have strong enforcement on family bonding due to that but these are possible reasons why my parents too busy to spend time the family.

by Thai Vang

We Must Learn How to be Hmong American

The older generations of the Hmong people often say that the younger ones are forgetting their culture. They often criticize that we are not preserving it and because of that, we will forget about our culture and background. However, I disagree with this and I believe we, the younger generation of Hmong, are still doing our part in preserving our culture. We are just doing it differently.

I think the biggest reason why the younger Hmong generation is so much different is because we live in a much different environment. In their native country, the Hmong were agrarian. Much of their economy was based on agriculture and it usually required the help of the entire household to manage one field. In western society, we are forced to find a way to make a living differently. The standard of living is different and independently managing a private land for agriculture is difficult due to competition in the market. There are simply better and easier ways to make a source of income rather than focusing on agriculture. Today, we do not have to rely on the entire household to contribute in providing income.

This brings me to the idea of the difference in Hmong families today and back then. Having children was an important part in marriage. It was a necessity. Children demonstrated a household’s status and provided a future source of income. Sons would grow up to help in the fields which would provide food and finances and daughters when married allowed the family to receive money from the bride price. Sons would carry their family’s name and reputation as the culture is based on a patrilineal descent system. Basically having children meant that families had more wealth and power in their society. Today, it seems to be much different. The costs of managing a family are expensive. The Hmong are one of the poorest ethnic groups in America. As a result, the family structures of Hmong families today are much different. The need of having a large family is not as valued as it was back then.

Marriage in America in the Hmong culture is different than it was back in their native land. Traditionally in a Hmong marriage, the bride is usually married to someone the family approves of and in most cases, it is an arranged marriage. Often the bride is only about 15 years old and is married to an older man. However, it is different today as most marriages between couples occur when they are in their 20s. According to a census report by Hmong National Development in 2013, married couple-households were on a decline since 2000. This shows evidence that many Hmong today are getting married less or at am older age.

Another noticeable difference in the Hmong community is the religion. Religion plays a large part in the Hmong culture. It acts a way to connect to the ancestors and in some cases it acts as a remedy to fix problems such as sickness. Religious leaders are called shamans are responsible for leading the house when rituals occur. Many Hmong today still follow Shamanism but with the influence of western culture, many Hmong in America have converted to Christianity. There exists criticism from the traditional Hmong that many Hmong who have converted have given up on their culture. This creates a gap between the younger and older generation as the older generation often sees this as a threat to the continuation of the Hmong culture.

As a Hmong American, my honest say is that the younger Hmong generations are not losing our culture but we are simply preserving it differently. We are more modernized and have adapted better to the western world. We have seen the struggles of our parents and have learned to do what it takes to avoid the issues they faced in adapting to their new home. Maybe we are not living up to the same expectations of how they grew up but that is because we live in a much different environment. The biggest difference between our view and their view is that we have accepted that the society we live in now is constantly changing and whether it is good or bad, we must learn to adapt so our children can learn what it is to be Hmong American. We are not losing our culture but we are simply preserving in a different way.

by Kao Lee

Time

What exactly is time? The technical definition is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole” but what does that mean? And why is it such a huge deal in our lives? We see time as an object of burden and something that has to be dealt with on a daily basis in order to have a problem free day. Time is the law. If we do not do something by this time on this day our entire schedule is off. Time is not the problem here, however.

In America we see time as how long we have to fit in as much as possible before we die. We count hours spent, hours to go, hours left until the end or beginning of another task. We are constantly on the go as to not waste too much time. Wasted time. That term comes from all the people who cannot have or just do not have any leisure time. Leisure time. I guess that’s a word that is defined when there needs to be a name for the time that we take when we are not working on moving our lives up the social ladder. If you asked America if there was a difference between leisure time and wasted time, the majority would probably say no because we as Americans see leisure time as the excess, the time off that we happen to have away from the busyness of our schedules. If we are not using all the time we are given to pursue what will improve our chances and our family’s chance in success then it is considered wasted.

The statistics do not lie either. In studies of the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are a total of 5 leisure hours and sports play in a day of people ages 15 and up. Sports are a full time job for most kids and adults, however, so that leisure time is essentially gone along with the rest of their day. The statistics show that watching TV is the most common thing to do in our leisure time which takes up 2.8 hours of our day. Next comes socializing and communicating with 39 minutes (which is probably a lot higher when social media comes into play) and in third is playing games: using a computer for leisure with 26 minutes. Now this is all average form the data collected in 2013 and all days of the week. These statistics prove that even in our leisure time, Americans are still doing something. We still feel the need to be constantly doing something to get ahead. There were only 18 minutes in a day to which we dedicated ourselves to sit and think about whatever our little hearts desire. Only 18 minutes in the 24 hours of our day. And that is an average which means there are a whole lot of people who just did not use their leisure time to just do nothing. They used up every single second possible in their day to get ahead and to just get things done around the house or projects from work or school. Humans need wiggle room. We need space to relax and think.

Culture has also dictated how many hours we spend working and giving up our leisure time. Studies have shown that people are working a lot more than they used to and that is what is expected of us. We come in earlier and leave later because that is what the boss wants then that is what they are going to get. In a lot of offices the worker bees need to get to the office before the Queen bee does and leave when or after they do just to keep afloat and keep their job. It is expected of us to live the “American Dream” and work our tails off while we are doing it. With that comes less, if any, leisure time.

It seems as if we are a people in constant need of acceptance from everyone: our peers, families and coworkers alike. If we do not receive their acceptance then we have failed. People say they do not care what others think of them but it seems as if trying to please others is in our DNA. If the social norm is that leisure time is wasted time then we automatically stay away from any sort of leisure time as acceptable and work constantly. We add things to our lives to make it seem as if we must. There is no downtime for ourselves. We have to cut back on what we do and what we think we have to do in order to make everyone else happy when in all reality we are the only ones we need to keep happy.

by Ambriel Whitaker

Is Technology Too Distracting?

Have you ever just stopped and observed the people around you while at work, at school, or even at home? I have and all I see most of the time is people using some form of technology. Some people are on their smartphones, others on their tablets, and there are those that are using a laptop and a phone at the same time. Sure, they may be doing some sort of work such as school work but who’s to say that they are not doing that, but rather, they are surfing the web, looking at videos or on Facebook? Heck, I have even seen a group of friends sitting together just on their phones minding their own business, lost in another world forgetting they are even with other people. This kind of makes me wonder, why do people use technology so much? Does all of this technology make people distracted from reality, that is, our priorities?

It is amazing when one realizes how far we have come in terms of technology. The first black and white television set was released in the middle of the 20th century, but was only those that could afford it had one in their household. Then the first cellular phone was released at the end of that century and was really expensive and heavy to carry as well. Now look where we are – just about everyone in the country has a flat screen TV in at least one room in the house and everyone in the family has a smart phone or some communication device. Not only that, computers and video game consoles are just about in every house as well, and they are always being used. When one is at home, the TV is usually on regardless if it is actually being watched. Now a lot of work, whether it is school related or bringing in work home from the office, the computer is used to type of documents or surf the web to get it done. When a gamer is done doing their work and finally have free time, they turn on their video game console and enjoy their rest of the day. When one is away from all those things and is bored, they hop onto their smartphone and get on Facebook or take a selfie to past the time. It is hard to imagine this not happen to any individual who has at least one of these things.

Speaking from personal experience, I have taken part in these activities so many times it is basically a daily ritual of mine. I am a college student and have my own smartphone that I barely got a year ago, a laptop, a TV, and more than one gaming console (seven to be exact including my laptop and phone). Here is my daily routine: wake up and usually the first thing I do in the morning is go on my phone and check Facebook, then I get ready and head for school on the bus and while I am on the bus I go on my phone again to repeat what I just did maybe an hour ago. Then, while at school when not in class, I do homework, but on breaks I am usually on Facebook (again), Youtube, and Netflix, or even playing a game. Once I get home, I go on Facebook again and watch something on Netflix while eating. Once I am done, I play a game into the night before going to bed. I repeat the entire the next day and the day after, and the after that and so. So most of my day is spent using some form of technology to the point where it has taken over my life. One could say I have an addiction problem.

To look at it from another perspective, I think people use technology so much because it either makes managing work much easier, offers a good way to relax, or perhaps a combination of the two. If you think about it, a modern-day computer with a keyboard and all the software that goes into typing a paper such as what I’m using now is a lot more efficient compared to what was once used – a type writer. Those devices are a thing of the past but were once used to get the job done. Although it could have been a tedious experience having to type up an entire paper, having to shift a certain part of the machine back to the left after typing a sentence, and if one made a mistake, they had to retype the entire page over again. With modern software, it allows the user to make any corrections needed before printing. Another example would be the telephone. Before all we had was a corded house phone which allowed the user only a limited space in to which to use it. Now we have smartphones that have no cords and can be used virtually anywhere and have internet access which allows the user to use commands similar to that of a computer which can come in handy for those on the go.

So how much is too much? Have we gotten to the point that we need some form of technology to fulfill some craving and that it is too addicting? Some would argue in favor of that because it is distracting. It makes us perform other activities other than what needs to be done. Some could say that, when it comes to children and video games, for example, it takes time away from the family and school-work. Charles Darrah, author of “Busier Than Ever”, reflects how busy people in society can be for various reason and notes how when it comes to children and education, they can be very distracted. He mentions one family tried to be responsible parents, “What would make us more effective parents would be to get rid of what makes us ineffective: television and video games… it’s when they become an obsession, they [children] don’t pay attention” (182). As extreme as this scenario appears, I think this is most common in children who are not really into school-work, but rather, play games and with their toys.

I remember as a kid my parents put forth this rule of “Do your homework first and then you can play but only for an hour”. Admittedly, I know I broke this rule more than once but I can honestly say that it instilled this “value” of putting my work first, a majority of the time anyway. As far as I can remember, I always did my work and got A’s in practically all of my classes from elementary to high school. Obviously, I would always play video games at home either before and/or after I did my homework. The point is, I did my work on time.

So how distracting is technology? Well, I think it depends on who you ask. You have many different kinds of people walking around with various personalities. If one examines a straight A college student, chances are they are spending more time on getting their work done so there really is not a lot of free time for them. If someone is not into video games at all, they might spend more time doing other things like working or replace that with more emphasis on TV (I know a few people who do this). I think technology becomes a distraction only because certain devices offer features that offer that temporary feeling of satisfaction or an escape from daily problems. For example, the smartphone I have has an app where I can access my college student account and access class materials online without needing a laptop so I can just read an article a professor posted while riding the Fax bus and not have to wait to get home to use my laptop. Although I have other apps such as Facebook, Youtube, and various games so like with any other person, I tend to get tired of reading and want to do something more “fulfilling” and automatically resort to Facebook even I just checked it a few minutes prior to reading that same article even though I know maybe one or no new piece of news has come up. So yes technology can be useful in making life easier but it comes with setbacks of its own which distracts users. It all comes down to the individual in trying to manage their time wisely.

by Dominique Zamora

Busier Than Ever

With the Holiday season in full swing families are pushed to their bounds as parents struggle to finely orchestrate plans and juggle responsibilities. I am the youngest out of my siblings and I enjoy observing their lives unfold into chaos as life throws them responsibilities that I know I will one day face myself. My own family is currently breaking into a new generation as my oldest Brother has two children of his own, five year-old son Jake and a four year-old daughter Natalie. He has so stressed and stretched to limit with his time and finances that I’m surprised that he isn’t shooting steam out of his ears. I’ve been recently reading a copy the incredibly applicable novel Busier than Ever: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down and every time I’m flipping through the pages I always come to think about my eldest brother’s hectic lifestyle. He and his wife are both intelligent hard working professionals, but they are strapped for time as they are simultaneously raising two children. This is especially evident during the holiday seasons as they rush to buy gifts, take kids to activities, accommodate family gatherings on either side, as well as maintain their own professional careers. They both work professional full time careers that require a certain level of skill and clear mindsets.

My older brother Josh is a Fresno City Firefighter and his wife Zara is a Paramedic for American Ambulance. The first thing that screamed to me from the novel was the hugely increasing number of duel income families that were mentioned and that my own brother fit the profile, in fact so do my Mother and Father on that note. This is a major component if not the key component of the increase of busyness in American families. Having to send both parents to work full time jobs in order to live a middle-class lifestyle has major implications. It means there no longer is a parent that is free to stay at home and tend to wars on the domestic front. Those domestic responsibilities then have to be juggled around work and split between the parents in their time off. It is without a doubt hectic and parents often look to family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles to watch their children in an attempt to lessen the burden of expensive day car. With two incomes the obvious outcome is that you’ll be making twice as much money. Though in reality with both parents working that means that the children would have to put into a daycare which cost a small fortune over time. Then you may also have to pay for a gardener and other maintenance professionals to do jobs that you could have done on your own if you just had the time.

With careers that can be quite intensive and sometimes graphic, it is important to keep some of their work separate from their family life. Although as the novel repeatedly emphasized such as with the Jackson family is that it is nearly impossible to fully separate all aspects of work from your family life. In which Vic Jackson who works such a hectic schedule as an engineer that his family activities end up being rushed and held at odd hours. This is a similar schedule to my Brother’s wife Zara’s work life as a Paramedic. She’s always being asked to work random shifts with odd hours where she may be coming and going in the middle of the night. While on the other hand, my brother’s schedule as a fire fighter is very different, he’ll work four forty-eight hour shifts and then have four days off in a row. In the novel Humberto Mendoza works as a firefighter and manages a similar routine. Although as the book mentioned about Humberto, Firefighters are allowed to request off days in anticipation of an upcoming event and are quite reliably given off the days asked for. In my Brother’s circumstance, he is also usually given off the days asked for which works great for him since his wife is not as fortunate on that front. In her case she is given a rough schedule often with odd hours and then also expected to accommodate occasional requests to pick up shifts. This means that Josh usually ends up working his more flexible schedule around his wife’s more rigid schedule to fill in holes. Although because of the nature of their two completely different forms of scheduling there will often be nights where Zara will have to work and Josh is pulling a forty-eight hour shift. So the two little rascals will get pawned off on Family members who usually graciously accept the children for the night. Differences in scheduling and flexibility often lead to as well.

As American Society becomes more in depth and interconnected our lives increase in complexity and intensity. We as humans follow the ever changing social structure not only helps define who we are, but how we perform our actions and interact with one another. Busier than Ever gives a glimpse into the lives of American families and gives a sense of how we have changed the way we manage our time. Although it’s more than just time management its fundamental similarities in how we balance work, family and an ever changing technological society. For better or for worse American Families have changed greatly in how parents provide the necessary amenities for their families. Societies are constantly dynamically morphing to best suit the times, and families are direct reflections of the societies in which they live in. Our modern fast paced families mirror and are directly influenced by our fast-paced American society.

by Kevin Wichman

Everyday life

Stress, stress, and more stress, when does it stop? The today stress has become a big part of our everyday life. Well, people try to find ways to escape, many people are can feel overwhelmed with different emotions, that make it hard to concentrate. People find many ways to relieve tension, before it leads to stress. Some might use traveling, reading, walking, even painting and or watch a movie just to relieve that pressure that builds up.

Stress builds up in different ways it comes from family life and school, it filled with the pressures of a sick parent and the lack of quality time with the family. Even the busyness of college and having to finish all assignments by the deadline can be stressful, at times I feel like I’m working a second job with no pay. My job which seems to be more structured, seems to be the only part of my life we’re, “I am in control.” All of these types of factors just add to my already hectic life, whether good or bad its life and in the end, I’ll tell myself it was all worth it.

In the book Busier then ever, by Charles N. Darrah, James M. Freeman, and J.A. English-Lueck, revolved around family involvement and explores fieldwork within these families and how they deal with stress and busyness. One example of stress within the book was, “The Jackson family,” who were working on buying their first new home and found themselves stress and overwhelmed with all that concerns that are involved in buying a home.  In todays world we find ourselves competing for a better grade or even a promotion at work, and in some cases the attention of someone else. For many people this emotion is nothing new just another part of our life, for others its hell to live with. People seem to be willing to take on more responsibility and allow for more stress, they tend to reach for more opportunities to build a better life. Some people even believe that the busier you are the more important you look. Even parents seem to be reaching for the stars, or at less after school activities that can give their children a better chance at a better life. Many parents tend to sign their children up for extracurricular activities never once thinking this might be enough or does the child want to play? Regardless parents just continue to think whats best for the child is more, more, more without realizing enough is enough. Parents tend to believe that if their child is not part of the group, or team he or she might miss out on an opportunity or even a chance to be involved and meet more children who might give them that competition to push them to go further in life. Many of the extracurricular activities go into the weekends, well parents act as a chauffeur and manager trying to keep their kids busy and focused well keeping their family life intact. In the book, “Busier than ever” talks about how families focus and find a way to create the good life. Many parents stress out or get over excited, believing they are not doing enough for their children, and that they seek to find others ways to add on other activities and keep their children busy and well balanced. Parents remind themselves that the reason their children play sports is to learn self-discipline, learn conflict resolution and teach sportsmanship. At the same time whispering in their child’s ear win, win, win.

For the children this becomes overwhelming and stressful, and just more pressure to make the parents happy, well trying to balance school work and all the extracurricular actives that make this a stressful time. I think many parents forget how it was to be a kid, or how the weekends were before. The weekends were all about riding our bikes, hangout with friends or just lounging around, totally stress free. As a parent I can relate to this, and I also remember signing my kids up for everything and at times thinking, if I was doing enough for them, not realizing, I might just be adding more stress on their busy lives. As a parent, I always had a purpose for all the extracurricular activities, and that was to make sure my kids stayed busy, found their passion and focused on their life, not to mention it looks good on a college application.

by Veronica Tovar

Culture Shift: The “Perfect” American Family

What do you think of when you picture the “ideal” American family? Personally, Norman Rockwell’s iconic oil painting Freedom from Want comes to mind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_from_Want_%28painting%29 ). It’s an image that most Americans have encountered. In it, a white family is seated around a table as the patriarch and matriarch of the family present the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving feast. The family, as it’s depicted, perfectly follows the “biogenetic” model, a view of kinship that emphasizes the “blood ties” between family members. This model is upheld as the ideal throughout American culture and many people pursue it as they form their own families. Only one third actually achieve this model, however. Despite the ideal, there are numerous variants of the American family: families divided by divorce and rebuilt with the addition of step parents; a single mother raising a child; or a homosexual couple adopting a child across transracial lines.

In her book, Broken Links, Enduring Ties, Linda Seligmann examines transracial and transnational adoption as a method of forming families. Many adopting parents that she interviewed were concerned with the obstacles and discrimination that their children would face in the world, by schoolmates, family members, and strangers. However, depending on the racial group that the parents were adopting from, their approaches to making peace with their contradiction to the ideal differed. For example, those adopting from Russia often did so because they wished to “pass” as a biologically-linked family, expressing the desire to protect their family’s privacy from prying eyes. They best way to do this, they determined, was to simply fit in. Thus, their actions served to conform to this structure present in American society. For families adopting from a visibly different racial group, like Asian or African, the approach was much different. They chose instead to field the invasive inquisition day to day and adapt to life as a mixed-race family formed through adoption. They were palpably uncomfortable as they learned ethnic hair care, sought out new acquaintances who had the same racial background as their child, and tried to instill a cultural appreciation in their children of their native land. These families act with agency by ignoring the ideal image, which seemed to occur more frequently than those hoping to “pass”.

In most cases, except for those attempting to “pass”, families were open about what made them different from the perceived norm. This is why I believe that the biogenetic form of family isn’t far away from becoming outdated. The Rockwell painting I mentioned in the beginning is a relic of the 1930s, where the nuclear family with a heterosexual, procreative couple lived in one household with their children. Many cultural shifts have occurred over the past 80 years that have seriously affected the family structure. For example, women are extremely active in the work force now and no longer dependent on a male partner to support her and any children she may have. Thus, she has the option to remain unmarried if she becomes pregnant, or she can form a family on her own through adoption or artificial insemination. Similarly, homosexual couples are rapidly gaining acceptance before the law and in their communities and forming their own families, often through adoption.

To highlight this shifting view of family with an example from pop culture, I would cite the TV show “Modern Family”. This show features three family units: the traditional nuclear, heterosexual family; the homosexual couple building a family through adoption; and a new family formed through remarriage. This is much more representative of the variety in family types that are now found in American society. Furthermore, its presence in the media and its popularity in American households demonstrate that people identify with it. To me, this is a sign that this show serves as a mirror of society as it exists in reality, instead of prolonging the outdated biogenetic model of family.

To sum up, there is a large culture shift currently occurring in America that is altering the way that people view family formation. The biogenetic model of family is rapidly becoming outdated, due to factors such as increased independence for women and acceptance of non-traditional, homosexual couples. Perhaps some may view this change as a “breakdown” in family values that our country was built upon. I, however, see it very differently. The acceptance of non-traditional families as mainstream is progress for our society. To hold onto a relic of the past in an increasingly globalized world would be to deny the change that is happening all around us. Today, we have more options than ever to build fulfilling family lives, and to deny that would simply rob us of a multitude of opportunities to achieve satisfaction with our endeavors.

by Brionna Mendoza

Kinship and Relation to Modern Times

The concept of Kinship as defined by anthropologist is a web of social relationships that are very important for most human societies. In the book by Linda Stone, Kinship and Gender: An Introduction the topic of kinship in differing societies is on display, allowing the reader the opportunity to evaluate different forms of kinship as well as gender treatment other than the “social norm“ we are used too . There are several examples that through the course of this class have stood out due to being prime learning examples of the structure of various kinship relationships throughout history as well as across the current world.

A very important issue that was addressed is the fact that our own culture within American society is massively different depending on varying factors such as family marital status, size of family (such as being raised by a single parent as an only child versus being raised by both parents in a large household) , area where raised, etc. When you take a look at just how our own society works it’s easy to get a better understanding of our own neighbors by comparing and contrasting our differing situations.

Various cases are compared and contrasted throughout all of Stone’s book. By looking at case studies so different from our own society it’s clear to see just how many radical changes from our treatment of Kin to other societies’ treatment of their own. A clear example of this is found in the case of the Nuer and the Nepalese Brahman tribes. Both of these groups had very radically different treatment of women as well as the amount of sexual autonomy they received. Also the amount of power matriarchal and patriarchal figures received was immense and demonstrated a lot about how both cultures respected their elders. After reading about both of these cases it’s easy to begin to compare their society to our own, such as how the head of the family gets a large sum of respect like in American culture.

Another very important historical kinship that stood out was the various relationships of Julius Caesar and how the helped him grow to be one of the most powerful men in history. By having so many different marriages as well as becoming close with allies and enemies through family marriages show how easily one can manipulate the power of kinship and relations to gain something desired. The specific case was an excessively large one allowing for an extreme amount of power gain. In Caesar’s case, he not only used himself and his own kinship ties to gain power but he also used his children to gain alliances, by forcing them to marry and sometimes soon there after divorce a rival family simply for political gain when necessary. This also shows an example of often times the little worth of children in Ancient Rome. Although to many this may seem terribly manipulative on the parents part, it’s not too wildly different from modern day “arranged” marriages between wealthy families in the United States to help make sure their children marry someone else from a well off family.

It is shown throughout all of Stone’s book that throughout the history of the world, as well as around the globe today there have been hundreds if not thousands of varying examples of kinship. Some examples are variations on kinship we are currently familiar with while others are so completely different and radical compared to our own they may even be hard to comprehend. Although they may all seem so different if we simply all came together to get a better understanding of each other than maybe things would be a change in a positive way for our society.

by Quinn Slatic

Demands and Decisions that Consume Life

Have you ever stopped to realize how consumed you are with busyness? In “Busier Than Ever: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down” by Darrah, Freeman, and English-Luek, they conclude that most Americans today are all caught up with demands of living their lifestyle and within that they make choices that lead to their own busyness. This book is a real eye opener that made me realize how busy I, myself, am and how “busyness is so deeply ingrained in many of today’s families that people often take it for granted” (page 5).

I am a young mother of two. In my opinion, being a young mother is a tough enough job. Having children is very expensive and time consuming because they require a lot of attention and care. Therefore, there are a lot of expectations and responsibilities that are attached to the role of being a mother.

Although my husband works to provide for us, his income is not enough to cover all our expenses, so we both decided together that it was only best for me to also work. For that reason, I have to contribute in working part-time in order to earn some extra income too. I work as an afterschool program tutor. The great thing about my job is that my work schedule is set and rarely changes. The only time it would change would be if there are early dismissal schedules for special events such as parent-teacher conferences. Therefore, every weekday I work from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Furthermore, I am a full-time college student. As a student, I am expected to follow up and keep up with any assignments that have to do with the classes I am in. Within my classes there are reading assignments, daily quizzes, writing journals, homework, and essays that I have to complete. As a result, it is also very time consuming to go to school to obtain a higher education.

My daily schedule consists of waking up in the morning around 6:30 a.m. to get ready to start the day. Then around 7:15 a.m., I wake up my oldest daughter, who is 6-years-old, and get her ready for school. Afterwards, I wake up my youngest daughter, who is 3-years-old, to dress her up. Because we only have one car, we have to wait until my husband gets out of work to come pick us up. He works third shift, so his work schedule is from 11:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. My husband usually arrives home around 7:45 a.m.; therefore, we have to rush our daughter to school before the tardy bell rings at 8:00 a.m. After dropping her off, my husband has to drop me off at school too. Then, he goes to pick up his grandma so that she can babysit our youngest daughter while my husband catches up on some sleep. I go to school from 9:00 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., so my husband has to get up around 12:30 p.m. to come on his way to pick me up. We usually depart school campus around 1:15 p.m. and then I arrive to work around 1:30 p.m. After dropping me off again, my husband has to head to our daughter’s elementary school to pick her up because she gets out at 2:05 p.m.

Because I get to work early, it is a great time for me to prepare the lesson for that day and get all the supplies ready. I usually look into the math book that was provided to me and make copies of certain pages that the students will be working on as a part of the program schedule. After that, I sharpen all the pencils so that it is ready for use right when the kids arrive into the classroom. Then, I make sure that all the chairs are placed next to the tables and that all the tables are straightened. Before I even know it, it is time to head to the office and prepare to sign- in the students and start work.

As I get off work at 6:00 p.m., I do not get home until 6:30 p.m. As I get home and put down my backpack, I head to the kitchen to cook for the family. After eating, I wash and clean the dishes and the kitchen. Since my husband barely had any sleep, after he is done eating he goes to take a rest before heading back to work, so I would have to shower the kids. Because my oldest is already old enough to shower by herself, she does not really need my help; however, it is the younger one who still needs my assistance. Before I even realize it, the time is already 8:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. Since it is getting late, I have to put the kids to sleep by 9:30 p.m. Unfortunately, I am unable to rest because I have to do homework, read, and study. Then around 10:15 p.m., I take a break from schoolwork to wake up my husband so he can prepare for work. After I send him off to work, I have to get back into my study mode and stay focus on my assignments. This is also the time for me to plan ahead about what activities I will do for work the next day and if I have the supplies for it. My usual bedtime is around midnight or sometimes a bit later, depending on how much work I have.

“Busyness…is grounded in realities of modernity that confront us with a question seldom asked in traditional societies: How shall I live my life? In modern societies, how people come to identify themselves is not merely handed down across generations; it is adopted through countless small and large decisions…” (page 107). Everything in life is based on decisions. Whether you’re a mother, a father, an employer, or a student, the responsibilities and choices that are acquired within those statuses are critical for you to maintain, so that you may excel and succeed within that position. I do not have to work, but I choose to work because I need to help provide for my family. I do not have to go to school to further my education, but I decided to do it because it will benefit me in the future. So stop for a moment and think, how busy are you with your life decisions and demands?

by Pavua Lee

Kinship Systems

When examining structure in a family, cultural anthropologists focus long and hard on a concept called kinship. A kinship is created when people are brought together due to marriage, descent, and cultural determination. This provides kinship groups with a sense of security and establishment. Within a kinship, you are able to benefit from your peers by exchanging new ideas and goods. You can compare this concept to a farmer who practices subsistence farming. A farmer will grow enough food in order to keep his family fulfilled and happy. These kinship groups create a sense of self sufficient communities that are able to rely on each other for different beneficial factors. Together as a unit they are content not having to rely on too many outside sources. I want to focus on how different kinship systems operate and how individuals in the group benefit off this system.

Some kinship systems are able to be sufficient within their group, meaning outside help and or influence isn’t necessary at times. Focusing on a culture’s kinship system can tell you a lot about the roles of individuals within the family. Questions such as “who plays a more important role”, or “do they all contribute equally” are focused on by cultural anthropologist. These answers of course differ all around the world. In return, we are able to evaluate different kinship systems around the world and understand why they operate the way they do. For example: A polygamy lifestyle may be the norm in many countries such as Northern Africa, but can be strictly be viewed as taboo here in America. Although it’s presumably forbidden here in America, we cannot judge that the polygamous lifestyle does not contribute or work for others and their way of living. Having 3 wives can also mean having more children, which in return means having more family members to contribute.

For the most part, we can all agree that families can be important as far as having mental, financial, and or physical support. Not everyone is born into this luxury of having a contributing family, but the ones that do have it make use of their support system in many different ways. When focusing on kinship in American families, structure dramatically differs from that of a family from another country such as India, Japan, Mongolia, etc. In the book Busier than Ever, American families are made out to be busy bees. Now days, our main motive is to devote ourselves to society in some way or another (jobs, school, volunteer work, etc.). Each member in the family has their own role while some may play more important roles than others. A mother and father may work all day long, and their kids are in the comfort of their home being taken care of by others (babysitters, grandparents, etc.).

The motive here is for parents to work hard in order to survive and support their family as a unit. When compared to other cultures such as the Amish, the children only go to school until a certain grade or age. Schools may not be seen as that important in their lifestyle, but making sure their children have good labor ethics is. The kids are put hard to work at a young age in order to contribute to their family and community. This also gives families a reason to spend a lot of time together. This is an example of a self-sufficient community. Everyone plays an important factor in their household. Unfortunately in America, we can view some members of the family as “dead weight”. Many times we find ourselves caring for our elderly loved ones and or kids because they are unable to do so on their own. In essence, we are working long and hard to simply keep our family afloat. Other families may view our structural way of living as insufficient or taboo because not everyone in the family is being equally benefited because some contribute more than others.

Kinship in most American families has a structure that can either hurt you or benefit you. You either have help from your peers, or you are left to do it on your own. Most parents work long hard hours in hopes to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for them and their children. The issue here is that the children are not getting enough family time with their parents. Everyone has their own task which in return reduces valuable family time. Although the parents are working hard for their kids, they are not realizing that they are also taking away from them. The Carlsburg family is a perfect example for this. They worked 9 days with an 80-hour schedule. They struggled with keeping their family balanced because their children had summer vacation off with nowhere to go. Unfortunately, parents do not get complimentary vacation times with their children which makes it difficult to find someone one to look after them. Some families do not have easy outlets to watch their children such as grandparents, neighbors, or day care due to insufficient funds. In some kinship, this wouldn’t be an issue at all for it is their kinfolk’s duty to help them out. Not having outlets for American families can mean having to accommodate their work schedules. The Carlsburgs had to manipulate their work schedules in order to have time to watch after their children during the summer. Excessively working also takes a toll on ones’ health while long work hours in this case resulted in inadequate amounts of sleep. This in return can put a tamper on how you may perform through your daily routines. Americans look at these hard obstacles as “sacrifice”. They feel they have to sacrifice in order to maintain their lives and families. Overall, kinship in American families can be viewed as connected as well as disconnected due to the lack of free and valuable family time. This kinship system is practiced by Americans due to having to conform to societal adaptations, however, it doesn’t mean it’s implemented or agreed upon by others. The support within American families can be seen as very indirect (individually working to pay bills), while other kinship groups may give direct support (working together to make food, working on the farm, etc.).

by Jasdeep Brar

 

Ideal Family

The book, Broken Links, Enduring Tie: American Adoption across race, class, and Nation by Linda J. Seligmann is a great portrait what weaves the ideal family. Decades ago we the ideal family would consist of mom, dad, son, daughter and that was it. Marriage was a sacred bond that was taken by oath both my men and wife to love each other until death do them apart. That was then, in today’s society what constructs an ideal family depends on the person you ask? A single mom and her child/children to someone might seem ideal only as long as they stay happy with another. On the other hand, two fathers or two mothers raising their children or Caucasian parents raising African American babies, is that ideal? Once again the answer lies in the individual whom is asked this question.

In my personal point of view, I believe that what makes the ideal family has one caring individual whom I would call my wife. And being able to relate to her and understand one another to the best of our abilities. Along on the way if it is God’s will to grant us a child/children of our own, it is an additional bonus. If we are not able to have children of our own, our interest will be adopting a child that we would best relate and that we would fall in love with. The last line I had stated “adopting a child that we would be able to relate to” is concurrent to what Seligmann reiterates in her book. She talks about the human “biology was the template on which American kinship relationships and the family were built, underlying American social norms about who was related to.” (P.2) Being able to relate to one another biology is an important aspect of what we believe as a family.

Having the same look, and especially same skin color is a big factor on families when adopting. For instance, Seligmann notes an incident when families that want only white babies it was “unlikely that you’re going to get a white kid.” (p.36) However, if you willing to adopt any baby, it were more than likely, you would get one. Why? The reason being is that we as a society are so keen to having a baby look like us. We want them to fit right into the family because it would allow the child to seem biological yours; even though you did not father or gave birth to the child.

Another example is the image walking in the mall, and you see a white couple with two African American babies what would be the first thought in your mind? “How is that possible, that is not their kid, how can they be white and the babies be black.” The thought can go on and on and vary depending on the individual seeing the family. This occurs because the biological spectrum is not normal and because they stick out people are naïve on what they are doing. Furthermore, the when families go to adopt they usually go overseas to adopt their own “kind”. The adopting parents would work with a broker, and the broker would take of the rest. If a hurdle arose the broker and the “law” had arrangements to find a loophole around the issue, in exchange of gifts and a fee. Adopting parents would object and voiced their displeasure, yet it was only after they had completed the adoption process. Furthermore, this brokering is evident in the process of adoption in the states. The reason being that the interpretation implied by the social worker “broker” is not consistent. It is up to the social worker to grant adoption or not. For instance, an adopting couple wanted to adopt three African American siblings, and their initial social worker was supportive, until a new supervisor replaced her. The new supervisor who was African American herself immediately tried to reject the application on the basis that “black children should be in black homes not in white.” This is further true in the personal experience of a student in the class. Her family was rejected adoption of the kids on the basis of not being black, despite the children living with their foster parents for five years. In both cases, the family’s petitions and filed complaints against their social worker but it fell to deaf ears. Thus, though the governments have attempted to cure the distortion of the adopting process, and the adopting parents try to push against the barriers, the system itself is to corrupt and change will lead to failure.

by Sunny Sehgal

Works Cited

Seligmann, Linda J. Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class, and Nation. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

The Fading Norm

What is a normal family? How can one start to define a normal family? In Broken Links, Enduring Ties by Linda J. Seligmann, she addresses the concept of a normal family by relating it to the “ideal” family or, in her words, the biogenetic model. American kinship is made through this model, which is defined as a heterosexual procreating couple living with their children. In my class, we talked about how the concept of family as blood (“blood ties”, “blood relatives”) is very dominant in U.S. families today, though my teacher mentioned only 20 percent of families display this model (Delcore). In our culture, we create expectations or starting points to how we set up our family (trying to resemble to biogenetic model), even when our conscious thoughts tell us not to. As Seligmann presents in her book, adoption practices challenge this social structure of the biogenetic model.

Anthropologists have debated the influence and prominence of the biogenetic model in today’s society. David Schneider saw biology as the template from which American families are built. Judith Modell found in her studies that adoptive families tried to replicate certain characteristics associated with biologically constituted families, while also trying to be recognized by their distinctiveness as adoptive families. Seligmann agrees with Modell in that she believes that biology and “blood ties” remain important aspects in American family making; however, she addresses how many practices have emerged to challenge this biogenetic view of families.

According to Seligmann, the challenges and changes to this biogenetic model is called agency. “They have begun talking and moving across these boundaries, sustaining discussions in forums over long periods of time about painful topics, engaging thorny issues, confronting schools, and trying to change their own behaviors. Their families resemble less a given than a work in progress, less a closed circle than a network whose density thins out as it expands-across residential neighborhoods, churches, playgrounds, grocery stores, sports arenas, and schools. It also stretches over oceans and national boundaries” (287). This quote summarizes the huge gains that adoptive parents have made to fight against the structures in place for adoption. A more specific example she gave in the book is when she discusses the influence of the school environment on adoptive children. They are communicating a norm to the other children about the biogenetic model and teaching them what they feel is the “normal.” Parents have pushed back against school as structure by addressing this issue. By asking for modification of the assignments and telling the children that biological connections aren’t the only way you can make a family, parents are asserting a challenge to the biogenetic model. It is the love and interaction with her adopted daughter, Ashley, that makes her Ashley’s mom as Amber, a mother who was studied by Seligmann, discussed with the author (214-15). Amber worked hard to give her daughter a chance to respond to questions being thrown at her from her peers; she wanted to show how a family doesn’t always mean you are the same race.

In Chapter 9 of her book, the U.S. phenomenon of adoptive children searching for their birth parents is discovered to be unique to the rest of the world. In cultures where the biogenetic norm is not as strictly followed, the children don’t show the need to search for their birth parents. In the U.S., they think that to conform to the norm, you need to find and seek out “who you are.” Seligmann called this the search for the missing links. The search for links to their biological families shows how strong and prominent the biogenetic model is in our culture specifically. The need to have blood ties and to not struggle with “discontinuities, loss, exclusion, racism, and ghosts that they sense in the narratives” shows the biogenetic model in action (25). A lot of this is primarily due to schools and institutions that project this model.

Seligmann shows many examples in her book revolving around this model. Russian adoptive (RA) families show, in many ways, how the biogenetic model is a goal to achieve when in the process of family making. This is seen when white children are targeted to help with family’s privacy and prevent inquiries into their life, as well as, how there is a preference for infants because they want immediate bonding between adoptive parents and children. Seligmann noticed more times than not that RA adoptive parents wanted to “pass” their family off as a biogenetic family (20). She concludes that, “interactions with RA adoptive parents quickly led me to conclude that both mothers and fathers were motivated to adopt from Russia because they wanted “white” children, conforming to enduring American ideas about ideal family composition” (18-19).

In contrast, Seligmann shows examples in her book that counteract the biogenetic model. She says how the process of open adoptions shows a fade away from the traditional nuclear family. African American (AA) adoptive families are an example because their case shows an opposite expectation of traditional family with their relation to the concept of “blood ties”. Another example of the deviation from the biogenetic model is when Seligmann states, “in trying to deal with these broken links, the children themselves served as catalysts for alternative modes of family-making” (27). This simply means that the adoptive children themselves have challenged the stigma associated with adoption. They do this by conveying a want to form their own families through the adoption process.

With all of this in mind, there is no other way to answer the question I stated at the beginning other than saying there is no such thing as a “normal” family. The U.S. is filled with diverse families that don’t fit with the biogenetic model (approximately 80 percent of families). Biology isn’t the only way to form families. Adoption is only one reason to why we see this model slowly fading away from the “norm.”

by Robin Draper

We Are What We Eat

            Eating delicious food is perhaps an activity that is enjoyed by many. The majority of people believe that it is okay to gorge oneself and be a glutton during special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas with dishes drenched with gravy and many sweets and desserts. This can rack up the calories including an increase of salt and sugar intake. However, it is certainly not right for a person to have bad eating habits regularly, such as eating instant ramen every day, as it is considered unhealthy. There is a common saying that some people like to throw in a conversation when it comes to the eating habits of others: You are what you eat.

We tend to condemn others for their bad eating habits by categorizing them as people who have no control, repulsive, slobs, lazy, or getting what they deserve when their health deteriorates with conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. We may stereotype and blame those people without truly comprehending the reasons as to why they might have made harmful decisions. However, I believe that we should try not to blame the individual solely, and instead examine the factors that influence the individual to create a habit of unhealthy eating. Within the United States, there exist many reasons that drive people to choose unhealthy eating. These reasons are what anthropologists call structures.

Perhaps one of the main reasons as to why people choose to eat foods rich in calories but lacking in nutrition is because we are just too busy to bother with a healthy and nutritious meal. Anthropologist Charles N. Darrah, along with his cohorts, has studied the relationships between busyness and the societal structures in his book Busier Than Ever! With the costs of living rising and the bills still piling up, families and individuals are scrambling to put together enough money in order to survive another day. It has become the norm for both the father and mother to be working in order to bring enough bread back home, while the existence of a stay-at-home mother is dwindling. In this kind of situation we must sometimes prioritize what is more important: paying the bills so we won’t lose our house, the electricity, and water, versus having a healthy meal. Of course having a healthy meal may not always mean a long and arduous process of slaving in the kitchen, but it can sometimes make the difference in money.

Eating healthy at times can be expensive in both time and money and this influences our agency, or choices. Take for example a meal at a fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s versus buying a Caesar salad. Fast food restaurants are not only fast, but also cheap as they may have dollar menus. In comparison, a salad can cost up to six dollars. Although a salad is healthier and better in the long run, the dollar menu is cheaper and allows people to save money while also relieving their hunger right now. This is probably why instant ramen has become so popular in the world today. Instant ramen is consumed within groups but perhaps the heaviest users are those who are poor and those who have a limited option. The noodles are quick to make, satisfy hunger, and taste decent. . In addition, sometimes we are just so tired that we do not want to invest our energy in cooking a meal at home.

Mothers are cornered when it comes to being both a mother and an employee. In the United States, we don’t always expect men and fathers to be able to cook, and we justify the ability to make something inedible to the male population. However, a mother has to work a double shift of child care and as an employee at a work place. Of course, we can argue that some men have taken on a share of the burden of child care, however, we still expect women to be the primary caregiver. It’s no surprise that some families are eating unhealthier when mothers are busier yet we still expect them to make time in order to cook a homemade meal.

Eating unhealthy foods like instant ramen noodles and canned food such as Ravioli and Campbell soup are eaten for different reasons across different social classes. Perhaps one may consume these products for pleasure or taste, however, there are those who rely on these products out of necessity. As a child with a working mother and father, easy meals for a kid to cook included instant ramen and heating canned foods in the microwave. However, these foods are not limited to children as adults also consume them. Being a college student, I tend to rely more and more on unhealthy eating habits. Although I realize that in the future I may be in danger of getting high blood pressure by consuming many instant ramen noodles, it has become a choice in order to save money and time. Eating lunch at a university every single day can become expensive if one spends about five dollars a day. This can rack up to one hundred dollars a month for lunch only. In comparison, instant noodles can be less than a dollar for one cup, being only twenty dollars in a month for lunch. I can also use it as a quick snack during my breaks while studying for my tests or writing papers as they can be cooked in a minute.

Let’s try not to blame others and be so quick to be judgmental when they practice bad eating habits. For all we know they might have good reasons why. We should consider ourselves fortunate if we can afford the time and money to eat healthy while others cannot because they are just too busy to have time or because they cannot afford to due to money constraints. We really are what we eat as the types of food we consume can be used to define who we are and what we go through.

by Pao Yang

Breaking America’s Tradition

Family. When thinking of this word, one would think of a mother, father and children. Often times these members are thought to resemble each other. This idea stems from the idea of the nuclear family being related genetically. The phrase nuclear family, refers to a married man and woman living with their offspring. As stated before, nuclear families are expected to be genetically related thus creating the idea of a biogenetic family model. Biogenetic family relates to the idea that a family should look alike. A family should not be diversified. In a sense, some might say the point of having a family is creating mini-me’s and keeping the family genes going. While this type of family was the traditional way of living in the 1950s, times are changing and diversity is becoming more and more accepted.

According to an article in the New York Times, in the 1960s about 40% of Americans were a biogenetic family. This percentage decreased to about 25.6% in the 1990s. Today, only about 20% of Americans are still following the biogenetic model and have a nuclear family. That is half the amount of nuclear families that were in America in the 1960s. So what exactly happened that caused the decrease? And what are the other 80% doing? Well, it’s not like these families have stopped reproducing or caring about a family, they have just chosen a path that deviates from the traditional nuclear, biogenetic family model.

While in this day and age it has become more acceptable to not have children. Couples used to be pressured to get married young and have lots of children. Nowadays, couples aren’t as pressured to even get married anymore. While, it is the ‘traditional’ American thing to fall in love, get married and have children, less people are following in their parents’ footsteps. For those that are married and want to have children, many of them have turned another form of raising a child, adoption.

Adoption has always been there, but it has recently started to become more popular. What is also becoming more popular is an interracial adoption. This process is a difficult one to handle. Not only are families bringing a child into their family of a different race, but they are forcing other family members into a mixed race family. Of course there are people like myself who are completely open to interracial adoptions, but even to this day, there are still those few who find it hard to deal with and start to cause problems. It is definitely something adopting parents need to talk to their families about before making any decisions.

These days, the concept of the nuclear and biogenetic family model are changing. Many families these days aren’t conforming to this way of living for more than one reason. One reason is the fact that some couples cannot reproduce their own children and look to adoption to fill their void. Some women have medical reasons that won’t let her safely carry a baby through full term. Another reason for this diversion is because families today like to diversify their families. Sometimes there is a single person who would love to become a parent. A more recent reason is a gay or lesbian couple who wants to raise children together. The last reason discussed is someone might have been an adopted child and had a great experience. Often times, those that were adopted end up adopting because they want to give a child the same type of experience they had.

Another reason people are thought to deviate from the biogenetic model is interracial couples. While these kinds of families technically follow the biogenetic family model, many people assume that since some children take after one parent, they aren’t the parents child. Our generation is much more open to the idea of interracial couples than they were in the 1950s. It was almost shunned if you were to date outside of your race. Nowadays, 1 in 12 marriages are interracial. Being a mixed race couple, allows for the option of having mixed raced children. Sometimes when mixed race couple have children, ones genes are more prominent in the children, often making it look like the child isn’t one of the parents. Today’s society is more accepting of this, but there are still those who hold having a nuclear family to a high standard and question those who have mixed race children.

More reason for the deviation of a nuclear family, comes from parents who aren’t fit to raise a child. I have always felt that there should be required classes married couples have to take in order to become parents because there are couples out there that should not have children. But some how these unfit couples bring children into this world, do a terrible job at it and only scar and ruin the child. In most cases, other members of the family end up taking care of the children and raising them as their own. Where this deviates from the nuclear family, is when the grandparents or aunt and uncles become the parental figures in these children’s lives. No longer involved in the child’s life, the parents are irrelevant and thus lose their rights to the child.

While it was the popular thing in the 1950s to have a the traditional, nuclear, biogenetic family, today is a much different time. More families are becoming diversified. Whether these families are adopting, fostering, or are having interracial children, the traditional, single raced, American family structure is becoming a thing of the past. We are being forced to look past the physical appearance of families and accept them as they are.

by Mollie Gillman

 

References

“The Changing American Family.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 May 2001.                        Web. 25 Nov. 2014

Structure and Agency in Adoption

The structure vs. agency debate is one that many anthropologists have attempted to explain and apply to various concepts, and in this case it is applied to adoption. There are many factors that make adoption, especially transnational and transracial adoption possible. According to Linda Seligmann, author of Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class and Nation, adoption can be analyzed by categorizing it into the structure of the organization and the agency of the individuals who decide to adopt across borders and races.

Seligmann is able to demonstrate the structure that exists in the world of adoption by discussing various domestic and international laws that are put in place to protect the children that are put into the adoption system. She mentions the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) / Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP), laws meant to keep “racial matching” from occurring in the adoption process. Although these laws were created for more equal adoption across races, it has not been effective. Again, Seligmann is able to explain this failure by the structure which exists in American society. For example, she provides the cultural practice of African Americans (AA), who place more importance on “informal kinship care” rather than actual adoption (36). In other words, AA are more likely to take a family member in as their own rather than going through the legal process to officially make them a child legally under their care.

Another structure which exists within the world of adoption is that of the adoption workers such as social workers and brokers/adoption agencies. Adoption agencies themselves can add even more requirements onto the process, especially if the agency is from abroad. An unavoidable aspect of adopting from abroad is often times the amount of money and time that will be spent travelling, take the example of Russia, prospective parents are expected to visit the country at least twice (39). These rules also shape adoption in that only certain type of families, middle or upper middle class families, will be able to adopt Russian children, or children from countries with regulations similar to theirs. Also, regulations like this make adoption a classist organization, in that for whatever reason, if a family is unable to or simply refuses to adopt local (American) children, they have the financial means to adopt a child from across the world that will meet their needs. Seligman brings attention to the fact that even though various laws and regulations exist within the adoption process, there are ways for prospective parents to take the process into their own hands.

As previously mentioned, international adoption can be a time consuming and expensive process. However, some parents are willing to take on this task in order to have a child that could look like it was really theirs (89). Here, the agency of parents takes laws created for adoption on the back burner. Laws such as the MEPA/IEP were put into place to keep parents from choosing the race of the child they want to adopt, yet other avenues exist in which parents can do this. So as these laws are made to keep certain practices from taking place, they still occur because of the fact that some parents simply want their child to look like it could truly be their biological child.           Another reason parents choose to adopt internationally is the distance that is provided between the biological parents and themselves (93). Parents who are capable of this type of adoption are uncomfortable with the mere possibility that American families might want their children back, whereas if adopting from abroad the return process, if you will, would be much more difficult. Once the process is complete, some parents face a new ordeal, depending on the racial and international components of their adopted child. In the case of Chinese children being adopted by white American families, the stories provided by some families illustrate the emotional ties the parents felt during the process that made them want their child to know their history. However, one family, the Laskas, expresses their discontent with the idea of returning to their children’s homeland. Mother of the family Jeanne Marie Laskas, essentially states that China never really was a home for their girls and that people often romanticize their children’s heritage by dressing them in silks and getting their photos professionally taken to be sent out to friends and family members (102). She ends her story by simply stating that, “My girls are home. My girls are part of a family.” (102). The Laskas provide a great example of the agency that parents assert in their relationship as new adoptive parents.

Adoption can be a stressful and expensive process due to the structure created by national and international laws and agencies. However, once a child has been successfully adopted, parents face new obstacles in which they have to decide what is best for their child. By making these decisions according to their roles as parents, they are exercising their agency in this newly formed relationship. Even though these decisions may not always be based upon the child’s ethnic or geographical background, parents who often base their decisions on these factors are exercising their agency within the structure of their child’s background itself. Of course, parents could completely ignore these factors about their children and act solely upon their own emotions and judgments as parents. But, one can ask, is this possible in a situation of transracial or transnational adoption? Can or should a parent ignore the structure that exists due to the identity of their child? More importantly, would the answers to these questions be based upon your own experienced structure or agency?

by Mercedes Gonzalez

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