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Race and the Genetic RevolutionScience, Myth, and Culture$
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Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156974

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156974.001.0001

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Can DNA “Witness” Race?

Can DNA “Witness” Race?

Forensic uses of an Imperfect Ancestry Testing Technology

(p.116) 6 Can DNA “Witness” Race?
Race and the Genetic Revolution

Duana Fullwiley

Columbia University Press

This chapter considers the use of DNAWitness, a technology that claims to help identify criminals based on race through the help of Ancestral Informative Markers (AIMs). It argues that DNAWitness falls short of legal and scientific standards for trial admissibility, as it eludes certain legal logics with regard to the use of racial categories in interpreting DNA. DNAWitness can offer vague profiles and has a wide margin of error that also often absorbs what might be understood to be important aspects of ancestral heritage or of a forensic “racial profile.” Moreover, this technology's individual ancestry estimates are highly vulnerable to social and political interpretations of phenotype, and may be impossible to accurately interpret with a sufficient degree of objectivity. The chapter concludes by explaining how AIMs-based technologies like DNAWitness are attempt to model human history from a specifically American perspective in order to infer present-day humans' continental origins.

Keywords:   DNAWitness, criminals, race, Ancestral Informative Markers, trial admissibility, racial categories, ancestral heritage, phenotype, AIMs-based technologies, continental origins

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