Alondra Nelson, "The Social Life of DNA"

In The Social Life of DNA, Alondra Nelson takes us on an unprecedented journey into how the double helix has wound its way into the heart of the most urgent contemporary social issues around race. Weaving together keenly observed interactions with root-seekers alongside historical details and revealing personal narrative, she shows that genetic genealogy is a new tool for addressing old and enduring issues. Nelson explains how these cutting-edge DNA-based techniques are being used in myriad ways, including grappling with the unfinished business of slavery: to foster reconciliation, to establish ties with African ancestral homelands, to rethink and sometimes alter citizenship, and to make legal claims for slavery reparations specifically based on ancestry.

Alondra Nelson is professor of sociology and the inaugural Dean of Social Science at Columbia University. On September 1, 2017, she will become President of the Social Science Research Council, an independent nonprofit that for more than nine decades has been dedicated to advancing research for the public good. She is the author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome and Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with multiple scholarly awards and has been translated into French. Chair-elect of the Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association, her books also include Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and Historyand Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. In 2002, she edited “Afrofuturism,” an influential special issue of Social Text.

Dr. Nelson has contributed to national policy discussions on inequality and about the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligencebig data, and human gene-editing. Alondra serves on the board of directors of the Data & Society Research Institute. She sits on the editorial boards of Social Studies of Science,Social Text, and Public Culture. Her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Science, and on National Public Radio, among other venues. Please join the Humanities Institute for this lecture on October 11, 2017 at 7pm in the Avaya Auditorium.


Sponsored by: The Humanities Institute through the Holloway Centennial Lectureship

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Peter O'Donnell Jr. Building (POB), POB 2.302 (Avaya Auditorium)
201 24TH ST E, Austin, Texas 78712

Event Type

Arts & Humanities, Health & Wellness


College of Liberal Arts

Target Audience

Students, Faculty, General Public



Free and open to the public

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