Perreau: New Book Released
Bruno Perreau's latest book was released on February 1st. It is titled Penser l'adoption. La gouvernance pastorale du genre (Rethinking Adoption. The Pastoral Governance of Gender) and was published by Presses Universitaires de France.
Cover: Penser l'adoption
Since the 1980s, international adoption has developed considerably in France. It is now the main form of adoption, representing no less than 90% of adopted children each year. Parallel to this evolution, mass media have gradually put the emphasis on possible illegal traffic in children. Bruno Perreau's new book argues that the fear of traffic reveals the contemporary challenges to French identity in a globalized world. It actually hides the fear of adoption itself. Since 1972, when children born outside and inside marriage were made equals before the law, one can observe an increasing biologization of French law. A greater focus on the biological origins has been promoted by bioethics committees and integrated into laws and decrees, in particular in 1994 and 2004. The body has literally been sacralized. Surrogacy is in fact forbidden, and assisted procreation is limited to sterile heterosexual couples. As a consequence, many scholars describe adoption as a site of resistance against biologization. For instance, an adopted child can have from one to four legal parents in France, given that adoptive families (single people or married couples) can either replace biological families or be added to them. However, by rewriting the civil status of the adopted child as if he/she was born from his/her adoptive parents, adoption also pays tribute to biological filiation. A telling example is the required length for accrediting a parent for adoption: the entire administrative procedure must last nine months, like the term of a pregnancy. Rethinking Adoption argues that biologization is only the tip of a bigger, more profound issue: naturalization. For adoption policies question the naturalist imaginary of the origins traditionally inhering in the social contract in France.
In order to deconstruct this imaginary, Bruno Perreau analyzes the process for authorizing an adoption and shows that it is understood as a “moment of truth,” in which administrative categories and social identities confront each other. Gender is a crucial register in this encounter, and the decision to accept or reject an application (by a single man, a woman past menopause, a homosexual person, a married couple, etc.) is the occasion for some important work on defining what constitutes a legitimate family. Rethinking Adoption offers a study of parliamentary debates since 1945 as well as French and European case law. It also throws light on social work by developing a discursive analysis of the various types of justification deployed by agents of the Child Social Welfare Agency when surveyed on the topic of homosexual people applying for adoption. It asks more specifically how gay adoption reshapes the institution of adoption, not only as a legal system, but also as a metaphor of national belonging.
Bruno Perreau's work questions the incremental dimension of public policies and analyzes what Michel Foucault called a “regime of truth.” The truth is present neither prior nor posterior to public policies, neither as a framework nor a product, but it is the very belief system through which public policies are implemented. This argument paves the way for an analysis of public policies “in negative”: where Max Weber stressed the construction of acceptable meaning as a corollary of the monopoly of legitimate physical constraint, Foucault questioned politics as a meticulous arrangement of the unacceptable. He was interested not in why a discourse could develop and become what it became at a given moment but in everything that might have made it different—yet did not. If the governance of gender is now pastoral in France, it is because it relies on fantasized categories of citizenship: people are compelled to identify with these categories and to prove that they fundamentally follow the national herd. This dominant political view is usually formulated through the rhetoric of anti-communitarianism. It is widely shared all across the political spectrum and impoverishes many social practices, which constantly reinvent subjectification, solidarity, and styles of living. To help voice these practices, Rethinking Adoption advocates for a more open understanding of adoption: adoption could include many more forms of kinship and offer more productive alternatives to a simple choice between plurality and exclusivity.