‘Coming To Look Alike’

Materializing Affinity in Japanese Foster and Adoptive Care

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 University of Colorado Boulder Kathryn.Goldfarb@colorado.edu
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Abstract

In contemporary Japan, non-biological family ties are not easily legible as kinship. This article examines how parents of adopted and fostered children in Japan mobilize material similarity to represent their kinship relationships as existing objectively in the world, untainted by socially suspect desires. Material resemblance is taken up as a semiotic framework through which people self-reflexively interpret the signs that are understood as relatedness, what I call ‘kinship technologies’. Focusing on two local categories used to conceptualize non-biological kinship (kizuna and en), this article explores how long-lasting relational ties are embodied through caring proximity and physical similarity. However, difference always lingers within similarity: the borderlines between family and non-family; made connections or inherent, ineffable ties; and observable markers of otherness, such as race and ethnicity.

Contributor Notes

Kathryn E. Goldfarb is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research brings together kinship, medical anthropology, and semiotics to explore the ways that social relationships shape bodily experience.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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