Chapter

Matching and the Mirror of Nature

in Kinship by Design

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780226327594
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226328072 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226328072.003.0005
Matching and the Mirror of Nature

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This chapter considers two key elements of adoption modernization: the matching paradigm and the evolution of professional standards in adoption practice. Their common goal was to predict and control the uncertainties of adoption. Matching held adoption up to the mirror of nature, and standards subjected adoption to systematic management. In both cases, families were deliberately made, even when design practices aimed to make them appear as if they were not. The idea of nature exerted moral authority over human social arrangements—to define them as appropriate, invariant, and good or as transgressive, contingent, and bad—that went largely uncontested in the early twentieth century in the United States. Matching made kinship through effort-filled social operations that simulated the appearance, stability, and authenticity that were assumed to be effortless products of nature. Standardization made kinship according to plan so that its outcomes could first be made visible, then carefully measured, and ultimately improved. As rational methods, matching and standardization subjected family making to novel forms of scrutiny, discipline, and calculation. The paradoxical point was to design kinship so seamlessly that adoptive families did not appear to be designed at all.

Keywords: adoption modernization; professional standards; kinship by design; social arrangements; family making

Chapter.  13838 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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