By Sally Sales (auth.)
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Additional resources for Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins: A Foucauldian History
29) describe the increasing move in the nineteenth century to bring the ‘otherness’ of working- class culture, with its more informal and communal attitudes to courtship, extra-marital sex and illegitimacy, into the dominant familial discourse of the era. Foucault identifies two effects of industrialisation that were demanding this very specific form of surveillance by mid- century. First, acute problems of urban overcrowding leading to the spread of disease and, second, an accelerated development of urban industry requiring a stable and healthy labour force (1978, p.
My account will differ by understanding these two discursive formations as in continuous and simultaneous conflict. It isn’t that the contractual discourse disappeared and the secrecy discourse emerged, but that they continued to operate together, structuring the field with richly conflictual practices. Before moving on to consider the emergence of these practices, I want to briefly consider the nature of the antagonistic forces at play in this early era of adoption. Early history There was in the 1920s continuing legislative reluctance to intervene into the sacrosanct life of the biological family.
2 Family as Cause and Cure: The Emergence of Adoption I want to begin this chapter by evoking a picture of the unmarried mother from the 1860s, taken from a study by the French historian Barret-Ducrocq (1992). She describes how in the mid-nineteenth century, unmarried and deserted working- class women approached the Thomas Coram Foundling hospital to have their illegitimate babies permanently or temporarily looked after elsewhere. The internal rules of the establishment required an unmarried mother wishing to place her child permanently, or for a limited period of time, to conform to certain criteria.