Mina Dinh, 2011 Gaudino Fellow

Gaudino Fellow Mina Dinh

Emigration and Family Dynamics in Laos

My project is a case study of the effects of open adoptions on family dynamics. My host family, which happens to be the subject of my study, lives in Laos, and has placed their three eldest children up for adoption. The majority of the month was spent getting to know my family. Near the end of the month, I conducted separate interviews with each member, which went quite smoothly. They were willing to share their thoughts with me. From their answers, I discovered that the relationship between the adopted children and the rest of the family is not as intimate as it could have been.

During my first interview, I realized that some of my questions were formed with an American framework of mind. The questions revolved around expectations for the future and the differences between their hopes and actuality. Rather than be universal human concepts, hopes and dreams are culturally bounded. I hypothesized that the Buddhist notion of impermanence influenced the way the family members think about life. Life is constantly in flux and it is no use to have specific hopes for the future. One can only wish that life will be comfortable.

The parents did not have specific desires for their own life or their children’s futures, and the children did not have any for their own future either. After interviewing the parents, I decided to change my questions for the children and to focus on how they talk and think about the adopted children. The changes were effective because the children talked for longer lengths of time. Therefore, I was given more material. My initial questions and their inability to respond made me recognize that my American ideals affect my perception of others and the questions that I pose.