The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption, and Morality in Andean Peru

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Overview

In this vivid ethnography, Jessaca B. Leinaweaver explores “child circulation,” informal arrangements in which indigenous Andean children are sent by their parents to live in other households. At first glance, child circulation appears tantamount to child abandonment. When seen in that light, the practice is a violation of international norms regarding children’s rights, guidelines that the Peruvian state relies on in regulating legal adoptions. Leinaweaver demonstrates that such an understanding of the practice is simplistic and misleading. Her in-depth ethnographic analysis reveals child circulation to be a meaningful, pragmatic social practice for poor and indigenous Peruvians, a flexible system of kinship that has likely been part of Andean lives for centuries. Child circulation may be initiated because parents cannot care for their children, because a childless elder wants company, or because it gives a young person the opportunity to gain needed skills.

Leinaweaver provides insight into the emotional and material factors that bring together and separate indigenous Andean families in the highland city of Ayacucho. She describes how child circulation is intimately linked to survival in the city, which has had to withstand colonialism, economic isolation, and the devastating civil war unleashed by the Shining Path. Leinaweaver examines the practice from the perspective of parents who send their children to live in other households, the adults who receive them, and the children themselves. She relates child circulation to international laws and norms regarding children’s rights, adoptions, and orphans, and to Peru’s history of racial conflict and violence. Given that history, Leinaweaver maintains that it is not surprising that child circulation, a practice associated with Peru’s impoverished indigenous community, is alternately ignored, tolerated, or condemned by the state.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Circulation of Children is a real contribution to several fields, including kinship studies and Andean studies. Jessaca B. Leinaweaver has done substantial fieldwork in an important region of South America on a topic of great current interest and lasting scholarly importance.”—Mary Weismantel, author of Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes

“In this highly readable, quite original study of the practice of child circulation, Jessaca B. Leinaweaver discusses the social, economic, racial, gender, legal, and moral contours of that practice; locates it in a complex web of local, regional, and national vectors of culture and power; and offers a nuanced interpretation of it as neither entirely benevolent nor completely exploitative. Leinaweaver is respectful and empathetic, and her book is rich in ethnographic information, thick descriptions, and personal stories.”—Carlos Aguirre, author of The Criminals of Lima and Their Worlds: The Prison Experience, 1850–1935

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822341970
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Series: Latin America Otherwise Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessaca B. Leinaweaver is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.

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Table of Contents

About the Series vii

Acknowledgments ix

A Note on Translation xiii

Introduction: Moving Children in Ayacucho 1

1 Ayacucho: Histories of Violence and Ethnography 21

2 International Adoption: The Globalization of Kinship 37

3 Puericulture and Andean Orphanhood 61

4 Companionship and Custom: The Mechanics of Child Circulation 81

5 Superacion: The Strategic Uses of Child Circulation 105

6 Pertenecer: Knowledge and Kinship 134

7 Circulating Children, at Home and Abroad 154

Glossary 163

Notes 165

Bibliography 195

Index 213

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