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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 4 No. 1 (2022): American Studies as Vulnerability Studies

'Brown Babies' in Post-WWII Denmark: A Case Study of the Vulnerabilities of Adopted Children Born of War

October 20, 2021


Children born to occupying soldiers and members of a local population during or after conflicts are in many ways an extraordinarily vulnerable population. These so-called children born of war (CBOW) commonly inherit the stigma of transgression and foreignness from their respective parents and face discrimination in post-conflict societies. Their specific vulnerabilities, though, emerge from multiple overlapping factors: the needs and social status of their family members, their relation to the trans/national communities of their parents as well as to ethno-national norms of belonging. This paper theorizes the multiple factors that shaped the vulnerabilities of biracial adoptees in post-WWII Denmark as Black and German children of fraternizing mothers. I look at a case from the Danish "child import," the illegal adoptions of children born to African American soldiers and German women in late 1950s Denmark, in relation to the testimony of an adopted child born to a German soldier in Denmark during WWII. The similarities and differences between the two testimonies show that the "imported" biracial children did not just face specific racial vulnerabilities at this intersection between US American and Danish adoption histories but also a relational vulnerability tied to their CBOW status, which manifested through the slow violence of family secrecy practices.


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