College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Mentor

Harriet Phinney, PhD

Faculty Editor

Rob Efird, PhD

Student Editor

Lauren Lee


Much scholarship focuses on the general topic of transnational and transracial adoption, especially regarding female Chinese adoptees to the United States. This focus is usually explained by China’s one-child policy that went into effect in 1979 and ended in 2015. Most of this scholarship focuses on the adoptive parents or younger adoptive children, and commonly refers to a singular “adoptee experience.” This ethnography utilizes reflective participant observation and interviews both in person and over video call as methods to collect and produce knowledge. Three major themes emerged in the search for organized knowledge of college-aged, female-identifying, Chinese adoptees: the role of family, identity, and the connection of both to theories of ethnic and racial essentialism, compounded by the endorsement of stereotypes of transnational and transracial adoptees. The informants’ categorically different descriptions of their experiences prove that the “adoptee experience” cannot be essentialized. This essay analyzes instances of misrecognition, reactions to opportunities or a lack of opportunity to explore Chinese ancestry, and the impact of these factors on identity formation. Additionally, this essay introduces a much larger conversation around identity politics and how assumptions can lead to categories of solidarity.