Source: Haslanger, Sally Anne., and Charlotte Witt. Adoption Matters: Philosophical and Feminist Essays. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.
In the opening essay of the compilation Adoption Matters: Philosophical and Feminist Essays, Sally Anne Haslanger and Charlotte Witt, feminist historians, explore the epistemology of the words “kith” and “kin”. Whereas we treat kith and kin as synonyms today, the epistemological meanings of the words are different.
Kith: Knowledge of or acquaintance with something. “A place known or familiar. One’s native land. Home.” (Haslanger, 2)
Kin: “A class, group or division.” Anything with common attributes. Denotes commonality in biological attributes in particular. (2)
“Although the family is often thought to be the basic and natural form of social life for human beings, adoption highlights the powerful role that law and politics play in shaping families and our ideas about these families” (Haslanger, 1). Haslanger and Witt’s compilation reveals how, by extension, the study of adoption sheds light on American assumptions about “what in human life is natural and what is social” (1) as well as the ways in which “unstated assumptions” about race, identity, and the “natural” form of the family shape the social norms and federal laws pertaining to adoption. Studying adoption also contributes to the exploration of philosophical and feminist issues. “This is hardly surprising, since the family lies at the intersection of nature and culture, and it embodies, and is shaped by, both social and legal norms” (15). Haslanger and Witt offer in their text a compelling argument that adoption is in many ways a feminist issue.