From Country Marks to DNA Markers The Genomic Turn in the Reconstruction of African Identities
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Abel, S., & Schroeder, H. (2020). From Country Marks to DNA Markers The Genomic Turn in the Reconstruction of African Identities. CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY, 61 S198-S209. https://doi.org/10.1086/709550
In molecular anthropology, DNA is regarded as a kind of biological “archive” that can provide unprecedented insights into human histories. More recently, genetic analysis has been used to explore the origins of African-descendant populations in the Americas. This idea has also been adopted by a burgeoning DNA ancestry testing industry that portrays these technologies as a means of restoring ethnic links effaced by slavery. Despite the popularity of these tests, critics have raised persistent scientific and ethical concerns about how far genomic data can, or should, be used to reconstruct social identities. In this paper, we take stock of these developments, assessing the combined influence of scientists, businesses, and members of the public in defining the scope of genetics for restoring ethnic links between African and African American populations. Drawing on perspectives from social and molecular anthropology, we examine the challenges of translating genetic findings into historically significant terms without reifying the correspondence between genetic and social identities, and we explore how personalized DNA ancestry results are being negotiated and mobilized by test takers “on the ground.” Finally, we consider the responsibilities of anthropologists in addressing ongoing biocolonial tendencies and power disparities in the production of genetic ancestry.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/709550
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/311381
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