Read The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome by Alondra Nelson Online


The unexpected story of how genetic testing is affecting race in AmericaDNA has been a master key unlocking medical and forensic secrets, but its genealogical life has also been notable. Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States, and the outpouring of interest in it from the African American community has been remarkable. After personally and professiThe unexpected story of how genetic testing is affecting race in AmericaDNA has been a master key unlocking medical and forensic secrets, but its genealogical life has also been notable. Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States, and the outpouring of interest in it from the African American community has been remarkable. After personally and professionally delving into the phenomenon for more than a decade, Alondra Nelson realized that genetic testing is being used to grapple with the unfinished business of slavery. It is being used for reconciliation, to establish ties with African ancestral homelands, to rethink citizenship, and to make unprecedented legal claims for slavery reparations based on genetic ancestry. Arguing that DNA offers a new tool for enduring issues, Nelson shows that the social life of DNA is affecting and transforming twenty-first-century racial politics....

Title : The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780807033012
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 216 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome Reviews

  • Michelle
    2019-04-14 11:44

    Alondra Nelson has done an exemplary job of breaking down incredibly complex social and scientific topics into language a layman can understand without oversimplifying. While it was a bit dry at times, The Social Life of DNA was replete with information. It was so dense with knowledge that it took me thrice the normal time to read.Not only do I feel that I have learned something about genetics and genealogy, I have, more importantly, come to a greater understand of the cultural significance of these studies in the black community. I have long understood the theft of culture and family from Africans and African-Americans as a part of the many horrors of slavery. What I had failed to understand was how emotionally significant an ethnic identity can be to a person. In particular a person for whom this identity has not only been taken but replaced with an identity as victim.This has given me a great deal to process for which I thank the author.I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity.

  • Cheri
    2019-04-02 12:24

    We think of DNA as clear-cut scientific evidence, but this book shows how in many cases the data are incomplete and, in any case, we often see only what we are hoping to find. Even so, DNA analysis can provide a valuable sense of social inclusion. The book is very dryly written and clearly aimed at academicians, but as a lay reader I still gained a deeper understanding of the politics of DNA and of the importance of the social role it plays in reconciliation for African Americans. I will no longer be surprised by the fervor with which ancient burial grounds are disputed or the strength of identification with unseen ancestral homelands, actual or presumed.

  • Tonstant Weader
    2019-04-06 14:46

    I was very eager to read The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome. I requested it from the library several months ago and have waited impatiently for my hold request to rise to the top. I am interested in genetics and the socio-political implications of DNA research and testing. I also endeavor to be an ally in the struggle against racism. I am aware of the troublesome history of science being exploited and misused to further racist agendas from Charles Murray’s infamous The Bell Curve to the 2014 publication of A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade, a piece of work so egregious it was denounced by the very geneticists he uses to support his assertion that natural selection has led to worldwide racial difference in IQ, political stability, and economic advancements.Alondra Nelson has a very disciplined framework for The Social Life of DNA. She writes about the history of ethnic genotyping through research mitochondrial DNA (maternal) and Y-chromosome DNA *paternal” and some of the ambiguities that arise. For example, the African DNA samples come from where people are living today in Africa, not where they may have lived in the 17th,18th, and 19th centuries. The entire database of African DNA identifies about 250 tribal groups in total, but one country may have that many tribal groups, so it is more general than precise. There are often bitter discoveries, too, since many find significant European ancestry, a genetic witness to the frequent rape of black women by their slaveowners.Nelson also looks at how DNA has been used around the world in reconciliation projects such as restoring the stolen children of Argentina to their grandparents and their biological families. DNA has also been used in seeking reparations. Some of the most interesting chapters of the book detail the history, the research and legal strategies of more than 100 years of seeking reparations for the crimes of slavery. The suits against the insurance and banking companies that profited as supporting industries of slavery by insuring slave ships and slaves and lending money for loan purchases are fascinating even though stymied by sovereign immunity and the ridiculous requirement that plaintiffs prove a direct descent from individual slaves insured by these companies knowing full well that censuses did not names slaves in the census records.Another interesting section looked at the current movement of reconciliation through DNA testing to find one’s ethnic affiliation in Africa, to travel and connect with “kin” and form bonds. Some people, like the actor Isaiah Washington, have even applied for and been granted dual citizenship as many countries will award dual citizenship based on DNA evidence that African Americans are children of this most consequential involuntary diaspora. Nelson suggests it is possible that this growing interest in returning to the motherland may arise out of disappointment with the retrenchment of civil rights advancements and the frustration of the reparations movement.The rest of the review can be read on my blog

  • David Leonard
    2019-04-16 15:38

    Alondra Nelson’s Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome is thoughtful provoking, timely, and forward thinking. It embodies the power in interdisciplinarity scholarship, building bridges between the historic and the sociological, between African American political discourse and scientific inquiry, between everyday conversations and social movements and those archival and ‘scholarly’ spaces. The book’s power is evident (and was felt) in the fact that as I finished I was reminded almost daily about its dialogical engagement with the world around me: the commercial about ancestry; the discussion and airing of Roots; discussions about reparations and Diaspora. Written over 10+ years, it is a testament to the strength of the scholarship, the depth of the research, and the power of the writing that the work is as relevant and timely today as it was when Dr. Nelson started the work. Offering a powerful framework for interdisciplinary community-relevant scholarship, this work also models the type of prose that elevates intellectual discourse. At its core, Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome tells a story: of identity; of history; of racism and scientific racism; of the liberatory possibilities of science; of capitalism; of Diaspora; of the complex debates about the power and limitations in/of science; of reparations and racial reconciliation; and so much more. It is written in a way that not only walks readers through the debates and themes but also introduces readers to many powerful voices. It draws readers into the discourses and the social dimensions of science, DNA, and so many debates over many years; it brings together so many stories with beauty, depth, and ease. “The boom in genetic ancestry testing over the last decade has been extraordinary. It’s every-rising and decade-plus of staying power continues that this pursuit is neither a fad nor a trend,” writes Nelson, Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University (165). “For good and for naught, we use DNA as a portal to the past that yields insights for the present and the future. We use DNA to shine a light on the social trauma and to show how historic injustices continue to resonate today…. Genetic ancestry testing is but one implement in an entire tool kit of tactics that, marshaled together, must be brought to the project of building racial reconciliation and social justice.” Exceptional on so many levels

  • Esther Marie
    2019-04-10 10:20

    One of the best books I've read recently. Highly, highly recommend. It was excellent in terms of research, writing, and, most of all, content! I learned quite a bit about the place genealogy holds in Black American/African-American communities. (There's a whole world of history that we never learn in school...) Add to that recent breakthroughs in matrilineal and patrilineal DNA testing after the mapping of the human genome, and you have an exceptional book. I tend to be pretty critical of non-fiction books, but Nelson did an incredible job and took great pains to present this history in a balanced and objective away. Apparently Alondra Nelson works at Columbia. I can only hope I'll have the chance to hear her speak one day!

  • Jennifer Rilstone
    2019-04-22 15:24

    I read this for its loose relevance both to my graduate studies in genetics and my own genetic ancestry results (or 4% thereof). I think it was a beneficial read. I'd previously accepted the limitations of the data you can glean from DTC ancestry tests, and sort of dismissed their value as being loosely interpretable at best. So I think the importance to me of reading this book was pulling my mind out of the technical granularity and considering what social value these tests bring to people who feel disconnected from their personal history. Thank you to the author for reminding a scientist of the human perspective. It also lead me to reflect on the potential value of expanding the databases of DNA samples available from the different African populations, so I hope that does improve. It was a good reminder to be cognizant that such databases need to be truly reflective of the needs of all the potential beneficiaries of the technology--beyond ancestry testing and inclusive of health applications. Oh and one more insight from the book--DNA has this somewhat hallowed status in popular culture, probably thanks to its precision in forensic applications. It's important to keep in mind this perception, given that it's highly misleading to think of all DNA technologies in the same way.

  • Megan
    2019-04-19 15:25

    This is an accessible and engaging look at DNA in the particular social context of African-American genealogy. Nelson examines how DNA and genetic lineage knowledge--and the act of interpreting said knowledge--assist people in shaping their own identities, senses of self and orientation to the past, and community ties. The book is weakest on the reparations angle of its subtitle, but that's because DNA's usefulness in seeking legal reparations is weak; in general, the American legal system is not equipped to deal with reparations. I wished Nelson did a deeper dive into the commercial aspect (but I'm someone who snarks at those Ancestry DNA TV commercials OMFG "HISPANIC" IS NOT A NATIONALITY), but she did an excellent job with--and brought sufficient skepticism and empathy--to explaining why people are interested in DNA technology as a tool to understand themselves and to explore their identities in the context of the past and in the context of evolving communities.Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

  • Mckenzie Richardson
    2019-04-17 08:21

    I received a copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.This is a very interesting topic and Nelson covers it well. Overall, I liked the book. I think the sections on reparations were especially interesting in the brief history given and how DNA has been used in connection with reparations.I like how Nelson combined her own personal experience with the history of DNA and how it has been used in matters regarding race. This added an individualized tone to the text, which helped to balance out the science and history. While I found the information in the book useful, the text was often very dense and the amount of information was overwhelming. It took me almost a month to get through this book, which is significantly longer than it usually takes me to finish a book, especially considering how short the book is. This is not a book one can just speed read through. I liked the book, but some of the chapters are kind of hard to get through because of their density.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-18 10:26

    I want to thank goodreads first reads and the author for allowing me this opportunity in winning a free copy of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome for an honest review.I found this to be a fascinating book on the dna genetic genealogy of race,politics and identity.the author her unique insight into the genetic science and history of our dna.I find that gives people a more clear and understanding of how our dna transforms us all and how we too can understand our own history.I again would like to express my joy in reading this book and for anyone,like myself,who wants to understand and look into their own DNA this is a book to start that process.

  • Camille
    2019-03-31 11:31

    "...the double helix works a spyglass that telescopes back in time allowing us to see the healing that remains to be achieved in American society." The Social Life of DNA is a wonderful book that explores the history/significance of DNA testing for African-Americans and at the same introduces a much-needed critique of the ways in which it's been received and put to use. It is at once an academic and personal journey with interesting twists and turns.If I have any complaint, it's that the whole thing was far too condensed. It was evident from every page that Nelson had a LOT more to say (heck she was introducing new terms and dropping footnotes in the last paragraph of the book). So I'd hope one day to read the "Directors Cut", since I'm certain there's lots more fascinating material on the cutting room floor!

  • Amy
    2019-04-12 12:47

    This book takes a look at genetic genealogy (specifically in tracing African American roots), at it's positive and negative aspects, and at it's capabilities and limitations. Dr. Nelson explores how DNA testing effects the discussion of race in America, and brings the discussion back into the public sphere. She also briefly reviews the history of attempts for African Americans to gain reparations for enslavement of themselves and there ancestors (A fight that has never truly stopped). She looks at it's functions as a means of providing a social connection, personal identity, and inclusion in a group. She examines how it effects the politics of race in the U.S. and around the world. She looks at it's impact on reconciliation of individuals' identities and between "races". It was a very interesting read.

    2019-03-30 12:37

    It was okay. I have complex feelings about reparations, and about DNA testing to find out where in Africa my ancestors MAY have come from. My younger sister got one of the free tests offered a few years ago, and we are matrilinially descended from a "Bantu speaking Congolese" woman. It's nice to have a big piece of the puzzle from before the abduction from Africa, and the sale of our ancestors in this hemisphere. There is so much more to our story between there and here.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-13 12:27

    Fascinating book about the marketing of genetic tracing by private companies to African Americans looking for reconciliation with Africa and healing from slavery. It raises so many, many questions - the book could have been three time as long: Does biology tell us who we are? Is family the source of our identity? A view into very thorny questions about the ethics of placing science at the service of commerce.

  • Leslie Clement
    2019-04-11 15:20

    I can't add any insights or thoughts about that book that hasn't already been said in previous reviews. I have a background in Black History and Archaeology and I was thrilled when I received this book. It brought up some issues I'd not thought of regarding DNA studies and Reparation in clear just-technical-enough prose. Kudos to Ms. Nelson. She has a winner here.

  • Roxanne
    2019-04-05 13:43

    This is a Goodreads win review. This is the first book I have read about DNA. I have always wondered about my own DNA roots but cannot do a family tracing. It is a complex book to reconcile our racial origins.

  • Hannah Notess
    2019-04-14 09:33

    Academic, but full of fascinating anecdotes about (OK as the title says) the role of DNA in understandings of race, reparations, and reconciliation. Looking forward to hearing her speak in a couple of weeks.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-16 14:42

    Very accessible text, kind of all over the place in tracing DNA testing vis a vis race (and potentially social justice? This part felt underdeveloped).

  • Rose
    2019-04-06 15:37

    Very heavy reading but interesting.

  • J.J. Amaworo
    2019-04-15 14:42

    This book brings together racial politics and DNA-based science in a startling and original way: Nelson shows us how DNA is being used by genealogists to discover the roots of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved.The book includes interviews with "kin-keepers" (family members who research and keep alive family histories); intros to scientist-activists such as Rick A. Kittles; and a trip through the legal minefield of reparations lawsuits. Nelson's grasp of the science and its socio-political uses is admirable and her explanations accessible.This story is far from finished. As the science becomes more advanced, we'll be able to go back further and with more accuracy. Will these developments herald an age of greater justice and acknowledgement of the sins of the past? It's unlikely. Such a reckoning would involve major admissions of guilt on behalf of families, communities, companies, states and the national government. Whatever the outcomes, Nelson's excellent book shows us the truth is out there, and someone in a lab coat may one day help us find it.

  • Nuha
    2019-04-10 12:26

    While impressive in its scope and ability to show interconnections between science and politics in very different areas like reparations, the book could have been longer and substantiated more instead of using stories. It wavered between being a sociology book or a pop culture book and in the end, didn't really satisfy either.

  • Bryce Van Vleet
    2019-04-05 12:42

    I sat in on a lecture of Dr. Nelson's in which she pretty much summed up this book, so understand that I skimmed this more than read it. While interesting, the book was much more academic and dry than I personally enjoy. However, Nelson does a great job of making her science relatively easy to understand. Her observations are acute and her subject matter, interesting. She seeks to tackle a great depth of intersecting social and biological sciences, and is generally successful. While this book was interesting, I think there are better investments for readers interested in race and genetics. I also really enjoyed the complexity and beauty of Bob Kosturko's cover design. I liked holding it in my hands and being seen with it.

  • Keerthi Purushothaman
    2019-04-22 08:49

    Fabulous book that focusses on the gene in genealogy and deals with histories of African Americans after the introduction of home genetic-testing kits. It is shorter than most other academic monographs and is accessible enough for anyone who isn't familiar with "The Social Life of Things". It combines interviews that show us the aspirations of individuals in tracing their histories to a whole other continent and how family histories told as stories is used to verify the claims made by the DNA test results, to question the veracity attributed to DNA as objective history.

  • Brian
    2019-04-07 14:33

    A very informative book and narrative. It was a bit beyond me, at times, but I learned a great amount of knowledge.