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Becoming a Viking: DNA testing, genetic ancestry and placeholder identity

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journal contribution
posted on 20.11.2015 by Marc Scully, Steven D. Brown, Turi King
A consensus has developed among social and biological scientists around the problematic nature of genetic ancestry testing, specifically that its popularity will lead to greater genetic essentialism in social identities. Many of these arguments assume a relatively uncritical engagement with DNA, under ‘high-stakes’ conditions. We suggest that in a biosocial society, more pervasive ‘low-stakes’ engagement is more likely. Through qualitative interviews with participants in a study of the genetic legacy of the Vikings in Northern England, we investigate how genetic ancestry results are discursively worked through. The identities formed in ‘becoming a Viking’ through DNA are characterised by fluidity and reflexivity, rather than essentialism. DNA results are woven into a wider narrative of selfhood relating to the past, the value of which lies in its potential to be passed on within families. While not unproblematic, the relatively banal nature of such narratives within contemporary society is characteristic of the ‘biosociable’.

Funding

The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Leverhulme Trust under Programme Grant F/00 212/AM.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Ethnic and Racial Studies

Volume

39

Issue

2

Citation

SCULLY, M.D., BROWN, S.D. and KING, T., 2016. Becoming a Viking: DNA testing, genetic ancestry and placeholder identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39 (2), pp.162-180.

Publisher

© Taylor & Francis

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date

2016

Notes

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethnic and Racial Studies on 14 Dec 2015, available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2016.1105991

ISSN

1466-4356

Language

en

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