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

Scully, M., Brown, S.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-7841-3225 and King, T., 2016. Becoming a Viking: DNA testing, genetic ancestry and placeholder identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39 (2), pp. 162-180. ISSN 0141-9870

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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 ‘highstakes’ conditions. We suggest that in a biosocial society, more pervasive ‘lowstakes’ 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 characterized 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’.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Ethnic and Racial Studies
Creators: Scully, M., Brown, S.D. and King, T.
Publisher: Informa UK Limited
Date: 26 January 2016
Volume: 39
Number: 2
ISSN: 0141-9870
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 15 Jan 2020 14:17
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2020 14:17

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