The Genealogical Science analyzes the scientific work and social implications of the flourishing field of genetic history. A biological discipline that relies on genetic data in order to reconstruct the geographic origins of contemporary populations - their histories of migration and genealogical connections to other present-day groups - this historical science is garnering ever more credibility and social reach, in large part due to a growing industry in ancestry testing. In this book, Nadia Abu El-Haj examines genetic history's working assumptions about culture and nature, identity and biology, and the individual and the collective. Through the example of the study of Jewish origins, she explores vel cultural and political practices that are emerging as genetic history's claims and facts circulate in the public domain and illustrates how this historical science is intrinsically entangled with cultural imaginations and political commitments. Chronicling late nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century understandings of race, nature, and culture, she identifies continuities and shifts in scientific claims, institutional contexts, and political worlds in order to show how the meanings of biological difference have changed over time. Through her focus on Jewish origins, she also analyzes genetic history as the latest iteration of a cultural and political practice w over a century old.
Nadia Abu El-Haj is professor of anthropology at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is the author of Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, also published by the University of Chicago Press.