Multiple lenses

Four faculty experts consider factors that shape identity

Explosive growth in personal DNA testing continues to rise as people seek details about their ancestry and roots. MIT Technology Review reported earlier this year that “the number of people who have had their DNA analyzed with direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy tests more than doubled during 2017 and now exceeds 12 million.” That means approximately one in 25 American adults now has this data.
So what is it that drives this growing hunger for personal genetic data and analysis? For some, they may hope to pinpoint their health risks and seek medical intervention. Yet, much of the advertising by the biggest sellers of the at-home testing kits seem to emphasize a softer appeal, focusing more on the stories than the science that can emerge from the testing data. They draw people in with the captivating notions of growing family trees, discovering ancestral connections and discerning personal identities.
Recognizing this growing phenomenon, we felt intrigued by the idea that millions of people are grasping for ways to get to the roots of their identity, and many are choosing DNA tests to find answers. Yet, our liberal arts foundation at Stritch demands we take this conversation in new directions and consider the concept of identity through other lenses.
To widen the scope of this conversation beyond the genetics lab, we asked several of our faculty experts to ponder the concept of what shapes identity using their varied academic disciplines as their lenses. Despite end-of-semester duties, four eagerly accepted the challenge to geek out in their native scholarly languages and take Stritch Magazine readers back to the classroom.