Crossing disciplinary lines: reconciling social and genomic perspectives on the histories and legacies of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans
New Genetics and Society
Informa UK Limited
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Abel, S., & Sandoval-Velasco, M. (2016). Crossing disciplinary lines: reconciling social and genomic perspectives on the histories and legacies of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. New Genetics and Society, 35 (2), 149-185. https://doi.org/10.1080/14636778.2016.1197109
Over the past two decades, advances in the field of genomics have presented new opportunities to shed light upon the origins of enslaved Africans and their contemporary descendants. While this possibility has caused enthusiasm among members of the public, it has provoked contention within the academic sphere. This paper represents an attempt to reconcile these opposing disciplinary divisions, by examining, explaining, and discussing the processes involved in the production of genetic “ancestry” estimates, in order to moderate the aura of absolute “truth” that is often associated with such techniques. Our discussion focuses on two case studies – the academic use of ancient DNA analyses to estimate the geographic origins of historically enslaved individuals, and the commercialization of DNA “ancestry” testing techniques aimed at African-American roots-seekers – and draws upon recent ethnographic data relating to the experiences of test creators and test-takers, in order to contribute to this debate.
This work was supported by the EUROTAST project, a Marie Curie Actions Initial Training Network, funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme [grant number EUROTAST FP7-PEOPLE-2010].
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14636778.2016.1197109
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/313104
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