MAKING GENETIC ANCESTRY: Population Genetics and Belonging

Department of Anthropology
Venla Oikkonen

This talk will reflect on the key themes of my book, Population Genetics and Belonging (Palgrave Macmillan 2018). I explore how population genetics has emerges as a means of enacting belonging in contemporary technoscientific societies. I will reflect on the contradictions that underlie the project of discovering genetic roots, focusing on the tensions between global, national, communal and personal genetic belonging. I argue that genetic roots are not discovered – they are enacted through a range of technological, discursive, affective and material practices. I show how global, national, communal and personal genetic belonging emerge from historically situated technological practices, and how they are inseparable from ideas of gender, sexuality, and race. I use commercial genetic ancestry tests as a case through which I approach these questions.


Venla Oikkonen is Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki. Her research is situated at the intersection of feminist science and technology studies and feminist cultural studies. Her research interests include affect, narrative, intersectionality, genetic ancestry, human evolution, vaccine controversies, and pandemic preparedness. She is the author of two books, Population Genetics and Belonging: A Cultural Analysis of Genetic Ancestry (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) and Gender, Sexuality and Reproduction in Evolutionary Narratives (Routledge 2013).