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DNA evidence ? The impact of genetic research on historical debates.

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


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.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Population genetics, History, interdisciplinarity, Expertise, Jewish communities, India
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review pre-copyedit version of an article published in BioSocieties. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Egorova, Y. (2010) 'DNA evidence ? The impact of genetic research on historical debates.', BioSocieties., 5 (3). pp. 348-365 is available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:10 February 2015
Date of first online publication:September 2010
Date first made open access:No date available

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