My monograph, Disrupting Kinship: Transnational Politics of Korean Adoption in the United States (University of Illinois Press, 2019), interrogates how the sustained intercountry adoption program between Korea and the United States created an effective template to understand the international exchange of children and the formation of the transracial, transcultural family. More than 200,000 children were sent abroad, two thirds of those who entered the United States, which is the largest receiving country of foreign adoptees worldwide. Three-quarters of these children grew up in white families, making these kinship units not only transnational but also transracial. Korean adoptees are a unique subgroup of the Asian American population, representing one in ten Korean Americans.
Disrupting Kinship exposes the growth of what I term, the transnational adoption industrial complex (TAIC)—the neo-colonial, multi-million dollar global industry that commodifies children’s bodies. By examining the adoption relationship between the two nations over the course of sixty years from the end of the Korean War (1950-53) to present day, I also contribute to increasing conversations concerning how the adult adoptee community intervenes in the portrayal of international adoption as solely an act of humanitarianism and child rescue.
I am also developing my second project, which explores how racialized and sexualized depictions of Asian/Asian American women penetrate and circulate within contemporary popular culture representations of female adoptees from Asia. I examine television, film, and media portrayals of adoptees to reframe discussions of incest, sexuality, and family, while deconstructing the concept of the “mythic orphan.” This project is under contract with The Ohio State University Press as part of their Formations: Adoption, Kinship, and Culture Series.
As part of this investment in reshaping discourse concerning racial, ethnic, cultural, and national identities, my scholarship highlights how transnational adoption expands the concept of diversity. Challenging the stereotypes that Asian Americans are model minorities or perpetual foreigners, the presence of adoptees in the U.S. also requires a re-working of what it means to be Asian American. Not only celebrating the diversity found within the Asian American community, this research exposes how international adoption more broadly is shaping understandings of race and multicultural discourse.
I also am the co-editor of Degrees of Difference: Reflections of Women of Color in Graduate School (University of Illinois Press, 2020), with Denise Delgado. Featuring the voices of nine women of color, Degrees of Difference offers strategies for self-care and what it means to build intentional and supportive communities to succeed, while also reflecting on what it takes to resist racism and unsupportive faculty and colleagues. The edited collection was recognized as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2020: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Please see McKee, Kimberly CV (January 2022) for a comprehensive list of publications and presentations.