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Accepted paper:

Emphasis and erasure in the governance of marginal parenthoods in Brazil


Claudia Fonseca (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul)

Paper short abstract:

Examining the moral and political underpinnings of the infrastructural devices used to manage and promote legal child adoption in Brazil, we highlight mechanisms of "strategic ignorance" that allow state authority to remain intact despite the widespread existence of non-orthodox practices.

Paper long abstract:

Tacking back and forth between courthouse bureaucracy, media campaigns, and ethnographic observations in working-class neighborhoods, I examine in this paper public policies of child adoption in Brazil. Starting from various media campaigns for the adoption of "difficult-to-place" children, I argue that these public rituals of beneficent state intervention, although appealing to journalistic spotlights, cannot be adequately understood without considering a series of non-orthodox paths to adoptive parenthood that remain persistently in the shadows. Building on the now traditional debates concerning the state and its margins, I place particular emphasis on how infrastructural technologies used to mediate child adoptions are adjusted to maintain a tense equilibrium. Not only does the bureaucratic insistence on forms, lists and statistics help transmute political options into moral certainties. As mechanisms of "strategic ignorance" that highlight certain behaviors while imposing complete silence on others, these technologies effectively create a zone of legal ambiguity that allows state authority to remain apparently intact despite the existence of widespread practices well outside the norms of official courthouse procedure.

panel P103
The rise of technomoral governance: anthropological insights into value-laden scales of evidence