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  • Writer's pictureMeghann Ormond

New chapter: 'Adoption, genealogical bewilderment and biological heritage bricolage'

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

It's not every day that I get to explicitly reflect on and write in a scholarly way about my private life. So, I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute an account of my mother's experience as an adoptee to Hamzah Muzaini and Claudio Minca's most recent edited volume, After Heritage: Critical Perspectives on Heritage from Below. I'm very thankful to her for, and humbled by, her openness and willingness to have her story be told in this way.

Reference: Ormond, M. (2018) 'Adoption, genealogical bewilderment and biological heritage bricolage'. In: After Heritage: Critical Perspectives on Heritage from Below, edited by Hamzah Muzaini and Claudio Minca, London: Edward Elgar.


Closed adoptions – where birth and adoption records are legally sealed to obscure adoptees’ biological parentage – were once the norm in many western Anglophone countries. Grassroots resistance to closed adoption relied upon the belief that deprivation of knowledge of their true biological origins could lead to psychological trauma among adoptees. In this chapter, I reflect on my own mother’s sense of deprivation as a result of closed adoption, her desire for a coherent origin story and her consequent process of cobbling together disparate fragments of legally-, religiously-, scientifically-, commercially- and familiarly-authorised and -authorising heritages from among diverse analogue, digital and biotechnical resources rendered intelligible, relevant and truthful by societal and (bio)technological transformations over time. In so doing, I call attention to complicated power relations in everyday personal heritage practices that challenge the simplistic pitting of ‘heritage from below’ (Robertson 2012) against ‘Authorised Heritage Discourse’ (AHD) (Smith 2006).

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