Marginalised Children, Privileged Parents: An analysis of the 'work' of American adoptive mothers on YouTube

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Sociology


Research will explore the implications of the work of American adoptive mothers who adopt children transnationally,
document their family life on YouTube and sustain their family from the income this activity generates. This work both
reflects and creates wide ranging and historically situated systems of power that are rarely, if ever, alluded to or
addressed in the representations the parents create. Pre-adoption, the children are incredibly marginalised and
vulnerable. In infancy they were placed by their birth parents into institutional care, and the majority have intellectual or
physical disabilities. Their parents are the opposite: middle-class, white Americans who are able to raise the $40,000
needed to adopt internationally. The social implications of the coming together of individuals from these two very different
lifeworld's are elucidated and complicated by the representations the mothers create. The content contains important
discourse about how the women conceptualise and construct their own whiteness and privilege as well as the 'otherness'
of their adopted children. The content is fertile ground for ethical questions, both about the neoliberal, neo-colonial
context and history that allows for international adoption and the set of values and beliefs that make documenting and
profiting from representations of one's marginalised children socially legitimate. I will take a mixed-methods approach,
carrying out digital ethnography and data analysis.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000738/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2284471 Studentship ES/P000738/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Isabelle Higgins