I am going to explain the instructions to one of the easiest tests you will ever have to take. The instructions are very straightforward: Unbox a small plastic tube. The tube is marked with a harsh black line. You need to spit in it, all the way to the top of the black line, but not over. And then you’re going to send it to a lab where scientists are going to pour over it for weeks. Sound easy? Maybe. Sound fun? Not particularly.
Yet this is the test many people are willing to take in the wake of the growing popularity of recreationally taking genetic ancestry tests from companies such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and more. As these tests rise in popularity, many questions and points of consideration comes with it such as: how trustworthy are these tests? What is the science behind them? What are these companies allowed to do with your DNA? What do the results mean for your ethnic or cultural identity? This last question became a point of focus for Kati Marton, and she reflects on the answer in her Washington Post opinion piece, “A DNA Test upended everything I knew about my identity. Now who am I?”
Marton’s results throw a wrench in not only her ethnic identity, but also her family history. Anyone who receives results of a DNA test that are unexpected run the risk of facing the same repercussions as Marton. So why do people take these tests? What does it contribute to their ethnic identity?
Are these contributions significant? In this podcast episode, The Black Line, I explore the science behind genetic ancestry testing and the effects the results may have on the evolving views of race and ethnicity. These findings will question the nature of ethnic identity and the different factors that may cause one’s identity to grow, change, and develop. Imagine: you take a simple test, and it topples everything you knew (or at least some of what you knew) about who you were. So, who are you now? My name is Celia Ramsay, and in this episode of A Matter of Opinion, I spit all the way up to the black line, so that you don’t have to.
List of Annotated Bibliographies:
Annotated Bibliographies #6
Building Inclusive Nations in the Age of Migration
Marco Antonsich, Elizabeth Mavroudi, and Sabina Mihelj reflect on the traditional understanding of nationalism as being one that rejects ethnic diversity, excludes minorities, and oppresses individuals. They suggest that we must move forward from this traditional view by pushing boundaries that exist by believing a nation belongs to a dominant ethnic group instead of all of the nation’s inhabitants. This secondary peer-reviewed research is relevant to some of the themes presented by Kati Marton in her AncestryDNA opinion piece. Marton reflects on the prosecution she fled in anti-Semitism in Hungary. She contemplates how, despite the potential ethnic identity has for subjecting one to exclusion – she was greeted with a silver dollar upon migrating to America. She asks if, in present-day America, would refugees identifying with a different culture, ethnicity, or nation, would be treated the same way upon arrival. This research presented in Building Inclusive Nations in the Age of Migration provides the foundation we might need to ensure that they do.
‘What Would it Be Reasonable for the Kid to be Called?’ – Negotiating the Racialised Essentialism of Names
Emily Jay Wykes’ scholarly article analyzes interviews discussing the choice between naming a child a white British name or a name that more obviously reflects ethnic heritage. She presents these scenarios as two separate options to choose, as if they would result in two completely different outcomes for a child’s social interactions. Wykes highlighting this potential social barrier for an individual raises questions important to the theme that Marton presents in her opinion piece. Marton questions how we treat refugees today, and in my podcast episode I may consider how well someone of a minority ethnic background (and with a name that reflects that) integrates themselves into our society. I have to consider if the ease, or lack thereof, of this integration may influence the way that we shape our ethnic identities.
Annotated Bibliographies #5
Making Meanings, Creating Family: Intertextuality and Framing in Family Interaction
Cynthia Gordon’s Making Meanings is a peer reviewed book about the repeated words, phrases, and speech acts in every day family interaction. Gordon does this through case studies that follow three families, and by the end of the book Gordon determines that this repetition creates intimate cultures within that family that give them a distinctive identity. Gordon’s research is especially relevant to my podcast episode, because Kati Marton’s article about her ethnic identity discusses, briefly, the concept of family. Marton reflects that family is more than DNA, and if family is more than DNA – what is it? What constitute a family and its many intricacies? And, finally, how important is family to how we shape our individual identities? With Gordon’s research, I may be able to have an insight to what family means and what impact that has on our identities and explore that insight in my podcast episode.
All in the Family? The Structure and Meaning of Family Life Among Young People
Pirjo Turtiainen, Sakari Karvonen, and Ossi Rahkonen are the authors behind the article, All in the Family? The Structure and Meaning of Family Life Among Young People. The goal of the article is to break down the time spent by young people on their family life through primary research, as this information is taken from direct interviews with these young people. The article concludes with the knowledge that quality time with family is essential for a young person’s wellbeing. These findings are important to note in my research because our identities, while individual, are not shaped by ourselves. Our upbringing has an impact on our cultural values, perspectives, and our identity. This article makes me consider if young people who spend more time with their families also develop a stronger sense of cultural identity, or if there is no correlation at all. This is something I can further look into and may strengthen the research behind my podcast episode, and this article about the structure of family life may jump start that research.
Annotated Bibliographies #4
Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity
Desmet, K.; Ortuño-Ortín, I.; Wacziarg, R. Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity. American Economic Review, vol 107(9), pages 2479-2513. 2017. Retrieved from https://www-aeaweb-org.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20150243.
This peer-reviewed paper by Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin, and Romain Wacziarg examines the relationship between ethnicity and culture. Within this relationship lies the parameters for cultural attitudes, values, norms, and identities. Through surveys of individuals the authors determine that ethnic diversity and cultural diversity are unrelated, however when both ethnicity and culture overlap, civil conflict within communities is more likely to occur. This new understanding in relation to my podcast episode topic shifts the way I previously thought of ethnicity and culture; I used to think the terms “ethnic identity” and “cultural identity” were nearly interchangeable. However, after thinking of them as two separate concepts that are likely to overlap, I am able to address issues that may get in the way of forming an ethnic or cultural identity. For example, assuming that everyone from a Latin American country would have the same cultural or ethnic identity would be erasing the diversity that tends to reside in these communities. It would put someone who is Afro-Latina in the same category as someone who is not, when ethnically, they are of an entirely different race, though their cultural identity might be the same. On the other hand, their cultural identity might still be very different with only few similarities. The difference between culture and ethnicity give insight to the complexity of these concepts, especially when one must ask how the two react with each other.
Race and Ethnicity: Culture, Identity, and Representation
Stephen Spencer’s Race and Ethnicity provides insight into many different issues that arise from the topics of race and ethnicity, but his first chapter discusses our current understanding of race and ethnicity in representation. With the fluidity of race and ethnicity, representation in various types of media and other popular platforms must keep up with the evolving views of ethnic backgrounds. The importance that Spencer places on the issue of representation in the media adds a unique element when considering ethnic identity in my podcast episode. Would achieving an ethnic identity that is entirely personal and could be more complex than the current understanding of ethnicity and race be able to be accurately reflected in mainstream media? Would those identities ever be able to be visible in media? Does it need to be? Or can it be represented in other ways? These are the challenges that may arise when discussing concepts that are so deeply personal to the individual yet a product of social communities at the same time.
Annotated Bibliographies #3
Multiracial Identity and Racial Politics in the United States
Masuoka, Natalie. Multiracial Identity and Racial Politics in the United States. Oxford University Press. August 2017. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordscholarship.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/view/10.1093/oso/9780190657468.001.0001/oso-9780190657468.
Natalie Masuoka’s book about multiracial identity in the United States provides insightful peer reviewed primary and secondary sources to discuss the nature of this identity. Masuoka collects data and information from interviews of American citizens to contribute to her exploration of the paradigm shift into race as a personal choice for an individual’s identity and the impact multiracial identity has on politics. She finds that the shift into a more fluid view of race changes the way one chooses to identify on government documents such as censuses and surveys, and the way people identify with multiracial politicians. This source contributes some of an answer to the question, “so what?” when discussing the fluidity of ethnic identity. To many, discussing ethnic identity doesn’t have much significance; Masuoka provides examples of the impact changing views of race can have on the way we choose to identify ourselves to the world, and the type of leaders we choose to represent us.
Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self
Alcoff, Linda. The Phenomenology of Racial Embodiment. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. Oxford University Press. Oxford Scholarship Online. January 2006. Retrieved from <http://www.oxfordscholarship.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/view/10.1093/0195137345.001.0001/acprof-9780195137347-chapter-7>.
Linda Alcoff’s peer reviewed Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self, addresses the confusion around race, and discusses race and racial identity from the perspective of one’s phenotype and race as something experienced in society. Alcoff notes that the development of the study of race challenges previous structures in Western societies, such as racial hierarchies that supported systemic racism. She concludes that we are to consider the visible racial differences between individuals in our evolving views of racial identity, so that we can aspire to change the societal barriers that are results of them. Alcoff’s contributions to the discussion of racial identity are important to remember when recording my podcast episode. This is because we must go beyond just analyzing the nature of ethnic identity. We must venture into how the concept affects our social structures and how we can use our view of race as a centre around how to eradicate societal barriers on which an outdated view of race is its foundation.
Annotated Bibliographies #2
The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing
Bolnick, D.; Fullwiley, D.; Duster, T.; Cooper, R.; Fujimura, J.; Kaufman, J.; Marks, J.; Morning, A.; Nelson, A.; Ossorio, P.; Reardon, J.; Reverby, S.; TallBear, K. The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing. AAAS, Science Magazine. Vol. 318. 19 October 2007.
This peer-reviewed article from Science Magazine is a secondary source that provides valuable insight into the credibility and limitations associated with genetic dna testing. Statistics provided in the article attest to the rise in popularity of dna tests to determine one’s genetic ancestry, and lists various reasons why they may be significant to an individual, such as African Americans searching for a history taken by slavery. It is determined by the end of the article that, while fun, takers of these dna tests must be aware of all the limitations in genetic dna testing not yet rectified. Knowing these limitations are important when responding to my article. How serious should we be taking the test results? How much of an impact should we allow the results to have on our ethnic identity, if any? If the origins of our genetic ancestors are so far removed from where we are today, what place do those origins have in our ethnic identities? These are examples of the questions raised around ancestry dna testing and in order for us to consider them, we must know how credible the results are.
Genetic Ancestry Testing
Sarata’s report on genetic ancestry testing elaborates on the many limitations to the science especially in relation to the complex concepts of race and ethnicity. She acknowledges the personal reasons revolving around our ethnic identities that would prompt one to take an ancestry dna test, and strongly believes that it is important to be aware of the scientific limitations to the results before one does so. She also elaborates on some issues that may arise such as interaction with existing policies, the complex and fluid views of race/racial identity, and privacy. Sarata’s report provides more insight not only into the scientific limitations of genetic testing, but also to the possible issues that may arise from doing so. This provides a unique point of consideration to my podcast episode because while it is acknowledged that forming ethnic identities we are comfortable with is the primary goal of discussion, genetic testing is not always the way to get the answers we need. Does the science have that capacity? And, if it does, it may not be worth the possible repercussions.
Annotated Bibliographies #1
Thorton, M.; Taylor, R.; Chatters, L.; Forsythe-Brown, I. “African American and Black Caribbean feelings of closeness to Africans.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Vol. 24, No. 4, p. 493 – 512. July 2017. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/pdf/1070289x/v24i0004/493_aaabcfocta.xml.
The authors of “African American and Black Caribbean feelings of closeness to Africans" explore the ethnic identities for African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Africans and the feelings of closeness the groups have to each other. This peer-reviewed paper acknowledges the complexity and the fluidity of ethnic identity, and how that relates to the concepts of “blackness”, especially when the individuals of the three groups are relating to each other. Dynamics of these relationships are discovered through studies, an example is found in the conclusion that Afro-Caribbeans feel “significantly closer” to black people from Africa than African Americans do (502). This paper provides a unique point of consideration for my episode by challenging my previous views of ethnicity and race as something finite and concrete. My episode responds to an opinion piece describing the experience of a woman questioning an ethnic identity she grew up with for years. How ethnic identity changes and evolves for individuals is at the core of my episode’s issue and peer-reviewed research such as this paper allow us to see how that fluidity affects how we interact with other ethnic communities closest to our own.
Edwards, R. “Partnered fathers bringing up their mixed-/multi-race children: an exploratory comparison of racial projects in Britain and New Zealand.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Vol. 24, No. 2, p. 177 – 197. July 2017. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/pdf/1070289x/v24i0002/177_pfbutmpibanz.xml.
Edwards’ exploration into the role of fathers of children with mothers of a different race take specific accounts from cases in Britain and New Zealand to determine what these roles entail. Edwards considers that fathers contribute cultural heritage to the ethnic identity of their mixed race children who will ultimately form their own ethnic identity as a mixed-race person. She concludes that the growing discussions revolving race and ethnic diversities impact the decisions fathers make in how they choose to raise their multi-race children and pass cultural traditions down. The analysis of the collected research compiled and studied by Edwards raises important themes relevant to the nature of ethnic identity discussed in my podcast episode. Edwards finds that the role of fathers in these relationships is important in making sure their cultural influence is held by their child to some degree, and this parallels with my opinion piece as the woman questioning her identity refers specifically to the contribution of her father’s cultural influence to her overall ethnic identity. This research deepens my understanding of the ethnic identity as something to be passed down through generations. It adds a unique angle to the issue of the evolution of the ethnic identity for the individual; now I must find the point of intersection between ethnic identity as something inherited, and ethnic identity as something transformed.