Law and adoption in the UK: a conversation with Alice Diver

Alice Diver, Emily Hipchen (Editor)

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Professor Emily Hipchen (Editor of Adoption & Culture (, Director of Nonfiction Writing, Senior Lecturer in English, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island ) in conversation with Dr Alice Diver (School of Law, QUB, N Ireland) about some of the themes underpinning her recent publication, “Monstrous Othering”: The Gothic Nature of Origin-Tracing in Law and Literature” (November, 2021).

The session opens with a brief discussion of their own respective experiences as ‘mother and baby home’ adoptees in the U.S. and Canada in the 1960’s, before turning to an analysis of how the particular adoptee brand of ‘fearful otherness’ is often represented -and indeed perpetuated – in certain works of 'monstrous orphan' fiction e.g. Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, and Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go.’ In respect of achieving meaningful sociolegal and cultural reforms, language is key. The debates surrounding the wording of Ireland’s controversial Birth Information and Tracing Act (2022) highlighted how lingering prejudices still attach to the topic of adoption and to the need to find one's origins. Discriminatory barriers to access - and contact with genetic relatives – still exist: the use of labels matters too, as the controversy over the use of the term ‘birth mother’ within the legislation (since amended to ‘mother’) also evidenced. Though mainly relevant to adoptee rights, and adoption law and policy, debates and discourse on language may also impact on other areas where losses of origins occur, such as surrogacy and international adoption.


  • Adoption
  • orphans
  • monsters
  • law reform
  • Gothic
  • literature

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