Racial Reconciliation, Institutional Morality, and the Social Life of DNA

February 21, 2019 -
6:00pm to 8:00pm

Abstract: The use of genetic ancestry testing in the United States has grown exponentially since its emergence about fifteen years ago. In this same period, US colleges and universities have increasingly uncovered and confronted their ties to the history of racial slavery. Although genetic ancestry tests are principally sought to provide genealogical information, these data have been marshaled into a wider range of social ventures, including the politics of remembrance and reconciliation. In this presentation, Alondra Nelson examines the recent use of genetic ancestry testing by the descendants of nearly three hundred enslaved men and women owned by Georgetown University, whom the institution’s Jesuit stewards sold to Southern plantations in 1838 in order to secure its solvency. The case of the GU 272 will be explored as a “reconciliation project”—a social endeavor in which DNA analysis is put to the use of repairing historic injury.

Department of Africana Studies Third Annual Lecture, co-sponsored by the Center for Bioethics & Health Law

Location and Address

University Club, Ballroom A 
(Pre-lecture reception from 5:00 – 6:00 pm in the Gold Room)