In the wake of US-enforced caps severely limiting refugee immigration and a precipitous drop in US families adopting children from abroad, it can be difficult to fathom how different the landscape for ‘family-saving’ migration looked a mere generation ago. Social welfare agencies, sectarian missions, and Left-oriented humanitarian groups at all scales had developed an intricate and somewhat tortured network of governance for vulnerable immigrants – particularly refugees and adoptees – in the 1980s that proved wildly successful in mobilizing funds, volunteer labor, and ideologies for the sake of accommodating new arrivals from Asia and the Americas. Professor Larson discusses how the strategies of this network over the ensuing decades led to its own collapse, due partly to anti-Black class warfare politics of privatization, but more fundamentally due to a failed reckoning with the autonomy of migrant bodies. He uses the cases of Korean adoptees and Hmong refugees to illustrate how even migrants presumed worthy of ‘saving’ (and the attendant expectations of debt and assimilation) has consistently confounded the best-laid plans of biopolitical control. 

 

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