Reclaiming Culture: Reculturation of Transracial and International Adoptees
By Amanda Baden, Lisa Treweeke, and Muninder Ahluwalia
“We believe that all TRIAs (transracial, international adoptees) will, to varying degrees, seek to reclaim or readopt their birth culture that was lost or sacrificed when they were placed internationally and across racial and ethnic lines. We call this process of reclaiming birth culture reculturation” (388).
Reculturation is a term needed for adoptees in order to justify their complex situation. Terms such as the following do not clearly explain their circumstances: acculturation, reverse acculturation, enculturation, and remigration.
When immigrants meet people from the new or “host” country, and then change internally, it is called acculturation. This does not fit for TRIAs because they often do not have knowledge or cannot remember their birth country and culture; therefore, their “host culture is the same as their lived culture” where they grew up after being adopted.
Reverse acculturation, which is when the two cultures (old and new) are introduced to each other, is also not fitting for adoptees because they often do not have enough experience to introduce their birth culture to their adoptive culture (388).
People who participate in cultural events and their lifelong learning of a birth culture is called enculturation. Again, TRIAs are not able to relate fully because their enculturation was stopped when they were adopted, and they may experience their birth culture second-hand through small group meetings or culture camps (389).
There is also remigration, which means the process and change of culture when immigrants return to their original country. TRIAs often travel back to their origin alone, and upon arrival, they may feel alienated because of the language barrier and cultural differences (389).
Often times, TRIAs assimilate into the culture their adoptive parents come from—they embrace the new culture and reject or forget the old. It’s not surprising that this happens during childhood because adoptees feel the need to fit in and be accepted by the majority and by the parents taking care of them (391).
Though adoptive parents may expose their children to birth culture, reculturation is defined for when the adoptee is old enough to choose, and have a desire, to learn and reconnect with their cultural past (391). Reculturation can happen through education, experience, and immersion (393). Adoptees who attend events, read literature, talk to peers, and learn language that all connect to their birth culture and adoption, are going through reculturation (394). Once reculturation happens, adoptees can choose between or combine their birth and adoptive culture (395).
Baden, Amanda, Lisa Treweeke, and Muninder Ahluwalia. “Reclaiming Culture: Reculturation of Transracial and International Adoptees.” Journal of Counseling & Development. Oct. 2012: 387-399. Wiley Online Library. Web. 3 May 2013.
If you’re interested, the full article can be found online. I have only provided a short summary of the authors’ key points. As an adoptee, I found it interesting, and I could definitely relate.