September
21
2017

IIAS lecture

Trafficking Asian children through international adoptions: a discussion on the making of "Shambala Junction"

Lecture by Prof. Dipika Mukherjee (Buffett Institute for Global Studies, Northwestern University, USA)

Celebrity adoptions – like those by Madonna or Brangelina – gloss over the realities of the real-world problems underlying international adoptions. As recently as on Feb 6, 2017, the BBC covered Madonna’s adoption of Malawi twins; what doesn’t appear in this happy picture is the other child she adopted in 2006, David, who was not an orphan as his father (and grandmother) were alive and Madonna had to fight a legal battle for his custody.

Widespread corruption in international adoptions is a human rights issue, but there is no outcry because the children are frequently taken from impoverished homes into a more affluent life -- as shown in the movie Lion -- and for many, that alone justifies the means. This is a highly contentious issue, but in a market where rich foreigners pay in thousands of dollars to adopt and children are sold for mere hundreds, there is the potential for corruption, and this is where Shambala Junction starts its fictional story to shed light on a real problem.

Shambala Junction won the 2016 Virginia Prize for Fiction in the United Kingdom. This talk will discuss the research that went into the writing of this novel.

The speaker

Dipika Mukherjee is a writer and sociolinguist associated with the IIAS since 2007. She co-edited Language Shifts Among Malaysian Minorities as Effects Of National Language Planning: Speaking in Many Tongues, published by Amsterdam University Press in 2011. Her award-winning novels include Shambala Junction, which won the UK Virginia Prize for Fiction (Aurora Metro, 2016, UK) and her debut novel was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and republished as Ode to Broken Things (Repeater, 2016, UK). Her short story collection is Rules of Desire (Fixi, 2015, Malaysia) and she has edited four anthologies of Southeast Asian stories. She is a Juror on the The Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2017.

Star2.com book review: Shambala Junction by Dipika Mukherjee