DNA and identity: History written in the genes?
This discussion on how genetic perspectives on identity engage with views coming from other academic fields studying human past and present was held at Kulturhuset, Oslo. It can be viewed in it's entirety here.
During the last three decades, advances in science and technology have allowed us to unpack the human genome and produce huge amounts of genetic data publically owned and available to the scientific community, governments, as well as commercial ancestry companies.
Although our DNA is extremely similar, researchers use statistical methods to investigate patterns of variation between human groups and further link individual DNA samples to specific populations of origin. The interpretation of these patterns is a rather complicated process and requires input from other fields such as archaeology, history, and anthropology. At the same time, assigning individuals to ancestral lineages is far from straightforward, involves much speculation and often implicates social and cultural preconceptions.
How, then, does contemporary scientific DNA research relate to our understandings of individual and group identities? What is the relationship between population labels used in genetics and ethnic labels assigned through social and cultural processes? Why are individuals so eager to search their ancestry through DNA-typing? Does this reflect the hype with genetics or a deeper dichotomy between biological and cultural understandings of identity?
This event is organized in connection with the development of our exhibition on the practices of historical and contemporary research on human biological variation. All contributions and feedback will be cherished!