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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Yulia Egorova

Egorova, Y. (2010). DNA Evidence? The impact of genetic research on historical debates. BioSocieties 5(3): 348-365.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The article explores how the relationship between genetics and history is performed in genetics studies that aim to reconstruct human migrations. It focuses on two case studies: research on the nature of genetic diversity of South Asian populations and on the genetic history of different Jewish communities. Analysis is based on a close reading of 16 articles on the genetic history of Jewish and South Asian populations and on in-depth interviews with eight geneticists who played a key role in either or both types of studies and with 20 historians with expertise in the issues examined in the genetic studies under survey. The paper discusses the way geneticists construct their contribution to historical debates and the way this contribution is perceived by historians. It will be demonstrated that geneticists and historians are keen on demarcating their disciplines from each other with geneticists insisting on keeping some distance from historical evidence for the sake of maintaining ‘objectivity’, and historians questioning the epistemological validity of genetic interventions into their field. It will be argued that what accounts for this lack of engagement with each other's discipline is the sociocultural norms associated with academic practice in the natural sciences and humanities and a tendency towards monodisciplinary peer-review.