Mother, Child, Race, Nation: The Visual Iconography of Rescue and the Politics of Transnational and Transracial Adoption
Author: Briggs L.



Source: Gender & History, Volume 15, Number 2, August 2003 , pp. 179-200(22)

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing




‘Third World’ poverty and hunger conjures up certain conventionalised images: thin children, with or without their mothers. This paper explores the genealogy of such images in the mid-twentieth century, and shows how they mobilise ideologies of ‘rescue’ while pointing away from structural (political, military and economic) explanations for poverty, famine and other disasters. These images had a counterpart in practices of transnational and transracial adoption, which became the subject of debate in the USA during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and were at least as much about symbolic debates over race as the fate of particular children. Together, these visual and familial practices made US foreign and domestic poverty policy intelligible as a debate over whether to save women and children. When they cast the USA as rescuer, they made it all but impossible to understand what US political, military or economic power had to do with creating the problem.

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1111/1468-0424.00298

Affiliations: 1: The University of Arizona