We know DNA is a master key that unlocks medical and forensic secrets, but its genealogical life is both revelatory and endlessly fascinating. Tracing genealogy is now the second-most popular hobby amongst Americans, as well as the second-most visited online category. The tsunami of interest in genetic ancestry tracing from the African American community has been especially overwhelming. Alondra Nelson has studied this phenomenon deeply for over a decade. Weaving together keenly observed interactions with root-seekers, alongside historical details, she shows that genetic genealogy is a new tool for addressing old and enduring issues. In The Social Life of DNA, Nelson takes us on an unprecedented journey into how the double helix has wound its way into the heart of the most urgent contemporary social issues around race.
Alondra Nelson is Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology (https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__sociology.columbia.edu_about-2Dcolumbia-2Dsociology&d=CwMGaQ&c=WO-RGvefibhHBZq3fL85hQ&r=wDiO30f1BAk36Zk4dictEljwFAHztiTEtrJxRsCfvHM&m=OyyWucQdYUDY9Om8SI84tOwRxJqhmfNOD2rkiThqEqk&s=1Gwc1kEefMsOmm7_smIwi2XS73gS3xMB-nRYsZH1YV4&e=) and gender studies at Columbia University, where she was formerly director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Dean Nelson is also the founding co-director of the Columbia's campus-wide Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies Council. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty in 2009, she was on the faculty of Yale University and received its Poorvu Award for teaching excellence.