Remediating Viking origins: genetic code as archival memory of the remote past

2015-11-20T14:14:39Z (GMT) by Marc Scully Turi King Steven D. Brown
This article introduces some early data from the Leverhulme Trust-funded research programme, ‘The Impact of the Diasporas on the Making of Britain: evidence, memories, inventions’. One of the interdisciplinary foci of the programme, which incorporates insights from genetics, history, archaeology, linguistics and social psychology, is to investigate how genetic evidence of ancestry is incorporated into identity narratives. In particular, we investigate how ‘applied genetic history’ shapes individual and familial narratives, which are then situated within macro-narratives of the nation and collective memories of immigration and indigenism. It is argued that the construction of genetic evidence as a ‘gold standard’ about ‘where you really come from’ involves a remediation of cultural and archival memory, in the construction of a ‘usable past’. This article is based on initial questionnaire data from a preliminary study of those attending DNA collection sessions in northern England. It presents some early indicators of the perceived importance of being of Viking descent among participants, notes some emerging patterns and considers the implications for contemporary debates on migration, belonging and local and national identity.