Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Masolo, D. A.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Owen, David

Committee Member

Owen, David

Committee Member

Rollins, Oliver

Committee Member

Ogude, James

Author's Keywords

human social identity; genetics; creations of culture; biological determinism; philosophy and society


The advent of DNA ancestry testing motivated a burst of human activities that constitute a scientific-technological-industrial-personal-social movement of immense scale, infused with epistemological and ethical questions of great and important variety. This movement has motivated many discourses in the social sciences, with study subjects ranging from the language usage of geneticists, to moral conundrums faced by test-takers, to potential ramifications in global structures of political power. At the same time, and especially in recent decades, the discourses of the comparative humanities have included with increasing frequency and urgency research and theorization about concepts and consequences of human social identities, alongside reasserting and developing long-standing questionings about the supreme dominance of the natural sciences in the determination of truth and reality.

The problematics that arise when we consider the definitions, boundaries, and intersections of human individual-personal and communal-social identities, impact not only how we understand ourselves and the nature or composition of society but have profound practical-applied impacts from the medical to the political. As I learned more about genetic ancestry testing and the movements in human society that it has enabled and inspired, my training as a philosophical humanist begged me to analyze these extant and arising problematics in other, or additional, ways.

This project involves the application of theory from both the humanities and the social sciences, in order to answer questions such as the following: How are the boundaries between different ancestral groups being drawn? Whose knowledges contribute to the determination of these boundaries? What dynamics of social power are present? Does the science that underlies genetic ancestry testing exhibit some of the same characteristics as earlier sciences now considered to be pseudoscientific and entrenched with scientific racisms, sexist and heteronormative patriarchies, xenophobic colonialisms, and other subjugative conceptualizations of human being and identity? On the contrary, what are the positives—towards the ends of knowledge of humanity and social justice for humanity—in all of this?