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Ethnographic Approaches to Race, Genetics and Genealogy

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Abstract

In recent years, there has been a technological advance and commercial boom in genetic technologies and projects, including a renewed scientific interest in the biological status and genetic constitution of race. This article provides an overview of sociological approaches to the study of race and genetics, and argues that these analyses should pay detailed critical attention to laypeople's engagements with the new genetic technologies. Drawing upon growing bodies of ethnographic literature within anthropology, geography and sociology, this paper unravels the complex and ambivalent ways in which laypeople think about the biological and genetic constitution of racial identities. Two specific bodies of literature are examined. First, the new kinship studies within anthropology that explores laypeople's engagements with the new reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization. Second, laypeople's uses of genealogical technologies that claim to trace family ancestries, including racial descent and ethnic origins.

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