[-empyre-] rehearsal of a network - [week 3]

Melinda Rackham melinda at subtle.net
Tue Jun 19 18:49:56 AEST 2018

Hi all,
 great monthly topics.. and DNA talk compels me to respond..
my take on DNA  is rather different as an Adopted person without knowledge of my racial/cultural heritage

I did as a kid dream I was misplaced child of European royalty, but alas my birth mum was just a young unmarried working class woman from the poorer suburbs shamed and bullied by society and religion into letting nuns take her child. she had another daughter she lost to adoption two years later. I have never met my 1/2 sister.

so I am using DNA to locate my relatives - and I agree ist full of clichés and stereotyping , especially when one runs ones results through different companies (ancestry, 23andMe, my heritage etc) . their ancestral algorithms are based on estimates and probabilities, not certainties,  and I come out racially differently in each result.

My Scandanavian is overtaken by western European, I get to be more english and less Irish/Scottish in others, my precious bit of Persian decreases, while my Italian gains.  As well there are no DNA testing companies that have reliable reference SNP data from Indigenous Australians -so bad luck if you are looking.

For me it is flawed on so many levels , but serious as its the only linkage I have to my paternal heritage, and to my adopted 1/2 sister. It also answers a few questions for me, like why having grown up in outback Australia I feel so at home safe and comfortable in European forests - why I feel very familiar with Denmark and Danish. 

Those that have the luxury of connection to heritage, I don't think could really understand what its like to not see anyone u look like, and that mirroring is a vital component of development, and have no threads to  cultures, society, or land.  Its a little like being a refugee from birth .. grateful for food and shelter but stricken with grief and loss - cant go back uncertain about going fwd, a placeless person.

DNA promises a lot, but it doesn't deliver - almost like gambling- get a lead follow it, then people don't respond, etc.. .MyHeritage has a pro bono initiative DNA Quest which is supposed to  help adoptees and their birth families reunite through DNA testing- sending out 15,000  DNA kits for free.  But u still need the dedication to do the work to find and follow links and build thier network and info.  My favourite line in their blurb:
" We hope to make this project a shining light for corporate philanthropy and an example to be followed by other commercial companies in their own lines of expertise, to help make our world a better place."

And in all of this heart-felt searching, most companies ask if they can retain our DNA records for medical research .. building a Biodata Empire, and most people, thinking they are helping their fellows, say yes.

happy testing 

Kerri Anne Burgess
as I was on my birth certificate before I was legally transformed into Melinda Rackham

> On 19 Jun 2018, at 10:03 am, Christiane Robbins <crobbins at mindspring.com> wrote:
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> Brett,
> I couldn’t agree more in that DNA kits are ripe for parody … the clichés the stereotyping, the narrow bandwidth of race is utterly sophomoric and misleading.  That said, I take issue with the focus of your position below - the “will toward cultural appropriation”, identity theft and the rush to judgement of an the exploitive branding as an identity prop for purposes of cultural appropriation…. or if, as you may be implying, for financial gain.
> I, too, state this as a citizen of the USA.  My own ancestor was Robert Coe - an original puritan ( colonizer) displaced from the UK and arriving in MA - and a rather prolific one at that!.  My blood lines ( as it were ) speak to the amalgam of immigration patterns in the east coast of USA since 1635 .    These include the Lenape Tribe ( the original peoples,)  the British, the Irish, the German, the Italian, the Spanish, the Finnish and the Lebanese - and all of these speak to their own migratory patterns throughout the millennia that in themselves have been racialized and nationalized.  
> I am simply an exemplary example of 4 centuries of migratory co-mingling in what is now called the USA.   All are verifiable in my DNA analysis as well as the patriarchal names ( Coe, Maier, Cassidy, Allaway, etc.) And most significantly via an oral history that has been handed down to me through my matriarchal line - my mother.  This oral history is most incredible but now pales in responding to the evidentiary demands of verifiable data analysis of the 21st c the DNA analysis which has now taken center stage .  This is simply an apt metaphor for our moment in history.
> FYI, throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th century in the USA the Lenape tribes ( comprising 3 clans in NY, NJ, PA CT,and MD) my own ancestors, were decimated first by the Dutch, then the French and then the English - i.e.  Amherst and disordering of the disbursement of infected blankets.  As we all understand, colonial brutality, enslavement and native disappearance spread in waves across the racialized continent.
> My understanding is that numerous others, including Elizabeth Warren, also responded to an oral history in their claims to Cherokee blood.  I do not automatically associate this with Identity Theft - at all.  Anyone who is actually familiar with Native American Tribal histories understands this respected oral tradition - as well as the tribal politics due the fairly recent financial gains by tribal investments and assets.    As the survivors fled south - some following the "Trail of Tears" they became one with the Cherokee tribes who eventually settled in Oklahoma - and again co-mingled.  In scapegoating Elizabeth Warren - you seem to do so from limited understanding of these histories and their respective operative and systemic racisms.
> Thanks to all for a stimulating conversation - once again!
> Best,
> Chris
>> On Jun 18, 2018, at 12:45 PM, BStalbaum <bstalbaum at ucsd.edu> wrote:
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>> DNA kits have become hilarious, painfully unaware self parodies of the will toward cultural appropriation. (Just for one example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84LnTrQ2us8 ) Of course I say this as a citizen of the U.S. Our context is particular and perverse, one in which some substantial proportion of the white population believes they are in the "blood line" (we still have a lot of strong premodern beliefs like "the blood"...) of indigenous North American peoples. Most of whom we killed, so the common case of whites who make very strong claims to native ancestry is particularly perverse. It is only ~100 years since the open, armed hunting of native people was still taking place here, basically unopposed by civil society, even in now liberal California. Actually I live in one of the last places in the US where this genocidal practice was commonly practiced, and is well documented. But people in my state hardly own up to it, and my own University system is deeply implicated. (Look up the history of Kroeber Hall at Berkeley, for example.) To put a personal spin on the matter, I have a couple of true believers in my own very white family. Honestly, people who have "dream catchers", believe they are part of a tribe - they are not registered and can not register with any actual tribe - and who believe that their blood puts them in deeper touch with the spirits of the land. I am not popular at family events, as you might imagine;-) Calling these false beliefs out, even among whites only, is still quite incendiary here.
>> An other example of the obscene nature of this common identity theft comes in the figure of US senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She was raised with these false beliefs, that she had natives in her family tree, and yes I do believe she has suffered a lot of well deserved embarrassment in the process of slowly coming around to personally owning her false family narrative. She is an otherwise sympathetic figure in most ways, and I should note, our president has belittled her in an explicitly racist manner, demonstrating the continuum between the soft and hard forms of racism in my country.
>> DNA is fraught, we should be very careful call it out when we see it used as an identity prop for cultural appropriation. Our networks are full of this kind of theft and positioning, as if such reductive DNA results can possibly mean more than our experience within the more tangible web of social relations; how we individually experience privilege and discrimination. (Including generational effects.)
>> Or that your DNA is what makes you a German or a Scot, as in the ridiculous commercial for Ancestry [.com] But in the US, the commercial shows how common these weird and often racist beliefs are. It is so sick, I feel like there must be lot of cultural specificity to it. I'd love to hear about how these DNA kits are playing out in other places.
>> On 06/18/2018 07:37 AM, lizvlx wrote:
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