Genetic stigma in law and literature: orphanhood, adoption, and the right to reunion

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book critically analyses the way in which traditional sociocultural and legal biases might be perpetuated against those with unknown – or unknowable – genetic ancestries. It looks to law and works of literature across differing eras and genres focussing upon such concepts as inherited stigma, illegitimacy, orphanisation, adoption, othering, reunion, and the ‘right’ to access truths that relate to one’s original identity. Law’s role in such matters is often limited (or usurped) by custom, practice, or lingering superstitious beliefs; the importance of oral and written testimony is therefore highlighted. Characters include abandoned or orphaned figures from folk and fairy tales, Romantic and Victorian monsters and heroes, Dickensian waifs, Edwardian rescue orphans, and dystopia-set ‘rebels.‘ Their insights and experiences are mirrored in various present day scenarios that speak to familial human rights abuses, not least forced adoptions and bars on accessing original information. This cross-disciplinary book draws upon Law, Literature, Sociology, and Critical Adoption Studies to analyse the tropes attaching to relinquishment, adoption, origin deprivation, and reunion.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages197
ISBN (Electronic)9783031462467
ISBN (Print)9783031462450, 9783031462481
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2023

Publication series

NamePalgrave Socio-Legal Studies
ISSN (Print)2947-9274
ISSN (Electronic)2947-9282


  • adoption
  • stigma
  • orphan
  • reunion
  • origin deprivation
  • Custom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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