Egenis Seminar with Dr Yulia Egorova 'DNA as a memory site: perspectives from ‘Jewish genetics’'
SpeakersDr Yulia Egorova, Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and in Health and Human Sciences, Durham University
University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJ
Room no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:00 - 4:30 pmAbstract:
The paper contributes to the discussion about the ‘naturalising’ effect that DNA studies may (or may not) have had on constructions of Jewishness. To do so it will examine recent responses to studies in population genetics, which attempted to cast light on the genetic structure of the Jewish people and on the history of Jewish Diaspora. The paper discusses the way ‘Jewish genetics’ is perceived and represented by different agents and argues that in order to understand the meanings that DNA research has acquired in the context of the Jewish tradition, it may be helpful to explore how it contributed to constructions of Jewish historical memory. More specifically, the paper focuses on the ‘mismatch’ between the argument about genetics being not much more than a new tool for reconstructing Jewish history espoused by scientists and some lay commentators, and the perception of it being a ‘litmus test’ of Jewishness demonstrated by a Judaising community in India. It will be suggested that though so far there is no indication that DNA tests are likely to be used in determining Jewish identity either on group or communal basis, this kind of genetic research has contributed to what could be described as the biologisation of Jewish collective memory.