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Denise Blake

Doctor of Philosophy, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2013
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Wade in the Water: Storying Adoptees Experiences through the Adoption Act 1955

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Concerned by the over-representation of adult adoptees’ among clinical populations, Ms Blake inquired into the life experiences of adults who were adopted under the Adoption Act 1955. The Act legalised ‘closed stranger’ adoption to remove the shame of illegitimately. By adapting Foucaultian theory to take account of the phenomenological body, Ms Blake troubled normative assumptions of social and kinship discourses to expose various forms of psych-social violence perpetuated by the legal fiction that constitutes adoptees as if born to legallymarried adoptive parents. Her project weaves together the voices and embodied experiences of adoptees to articulate loss, grief and dislocation that characterised even the most ‘successful’ adoptions among the participants. The analysis opened up experiences that have been marginalised by normative social discourses, presenting rich empirical insights into the consequences of living with ‘the presence of an absent’ birth family. Ms Blake’s thesis provides a strong platform for advocating legislative change.

Dr Leigh Coombes
Professor Mandy Morgan