In this article, we use narratives of cultural identity among U.S. parents of children adopted from China to conceptually explore the ideas that underwrite socially intelligible kinship. Although these narratives address the cultural heritage of the child, we find that they also perform a kind of social labor. The ways adoptive parents respond to the “culture question” (their children's birth heritage) also speak to family identity in relation to a foundational imaginary of heteronormative kinship, namely, the equivalence of biological and social family origins. We assert that the “secret” of socially intelligible kinship is revealed in the shifting meanings of blood and social desire in ideas of kinship, which has important implications for new kinship studies as well as for adoption scholarship. [kinship, heteronormativity, adoption, culture, race, desire]
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