A Part Yet Apart: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Formation for Korean Transracial Adoptees Raised in the U.S. Midwest
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This dissertation explores the lifelong racial and ethnic identity development of Korean transracial adoptees raised in the U.S. Midwest. Using seventy-seven in-depth, semi-structured life history interviews, geographic region, age cohort, gender, and exploration type emerged as the most significant factors shaping adoptees' sense of group belonging. Their unique life experiences as Asian Americans in White families created liminal belonging as "a part yet apart" from White, Asian, and even, at times, Korean adoptee communities. As they aged and encountered new life stage responsibilities and pressures, adoptees in the study experienced greater exposure to racial and ethnic diversity and were generally more willing to explore their identities during early and mid-adulthood. The large population of Korean adoptees in the Midwest, and Minnesota in particular, increased opportunities for exposure to other Korean adoptees and Korean adoptee culture. Involvement typically provided adoptees with a full-fledged sense of belonging that eluded them in traditionally defined Asian, Korean, and White communities. An empowering Korean adoptee identity emerged that was based on explicitly acknowledging adoptees' unique life circumstances in-between non-adopted Asians and Whites and challenged conflations of race, ethnicity, and culture.