The global DNA ancestry industry appeals to various “markets”: diasporic groups seeking to reconstruct lost kinship links; adoptees looking for biological relatives; genealogists tracing their family trees; and those who are merely curious about what DNA can reveal about their identity. However, the language of empowerment and openness employed by DNA ancestry-testing companies in their publicity materials masks the important commercial and private interests at stake. Drawing particularly on the experiences of Native and Indigenous American communities, this article highlights some of the contradictions and dilemmas engendered by the industry, and questions to what extent its practices can empower users without infringing upon the rights of other groups.
This contribution began as an email dialogue between Sarah Abel and Krystal Tsosie, which was then edited for publication.
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