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FZ-280126-21

Maya Jasanoff
President and Fellows of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA 02138-3800)
Ancestors: Where Do We Come From and Why Do We Care?

Research and writing of a book on the social, cultural, and political meanings of ancestry in human history.

My project offers the first account of the social, cultural, and political meanings of ancestry in human history. Since antiquity, lineage has shaped power relations, material inheritance, legal rights, and that amorphous but meaningful thing we call “identity.” Ancestry itself, I argue, has an ancestry. Different ways of recording where we come from are layered onto one another. Genealogies capture the priorities of various kinship systems; laws codify privileges and exclusions based on lineage; and today’s sleek DNA kits deliver a record of ancestry anchored in biology, even as their results are interpreted in ways that rest on deep, if not always acknowledged, assumptions about status, race, ethnicity, and nationhood. Ranging from pre-history to the present, my book will describe how ancestry has operated in specific historical contexts, with the goal of explaining why, for whom, and in what ways lineage has been invested with power.

Project fields:
History, General

Program:
Public Scholars

Division:
Research Programs

Totals:
$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2021 – 8/31/2022