Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Reminder to Eurogenes and Davidski: You ARE NOT Your Y Chromosome, and Your Manhood Isn't Tied to It!

A great study just came out that confirms what many of us have noticed.  Increasingly, instead of dude being proud of their ethnic group (and risk being called racist) or even their soccer team (and risk being called a hooligan), many misguided men, especially in online forums, are tying their identity to their Y chromosome haplogroup!  

Yes, you laugh, I laugh, but any quick read of any of the worst offenders (Maciamo May at Expedia, Davidski at Eurogenes), will reveal this concept, as well as some very fragile male egos, redefined with junk pop-science.

The study is called:

Constructing Masculinity through Genetic Legacies: Family Histories, Y-Chromosomes, and “Viking Identities"

Some highlights:

The practice of searching for a Viking ancestor is, on one level, an exercise in redundancy. At a distance of a millennium, simple mathematics demonstrates that everyone, at least in Western Europe, and most probably further afield, has Viking ancestry (Rutherford 2016).

Rather, this kind of texture was what the participants in our research were interested in: the majority were seeking confirmation of Viking ancestry, for which they already had amassed a certain amount of (usually genealogical) evidence. For such individuals, to be told “yes, you are descended from Vikings, because everybody is”, is seemingly psychologically insufficient.

Critiques from population geneticists likening such claims to “genetic astrology” are widespread (e.g., Balding et al. 2010; Thomas 2013), while the problematic potential of such narratives to essentialise ethnic identities based on biology have also been highlighted (Fortier 2012; Morning 2014; Nash 2004a; Nelson 2008; Nordgren and Juengst 2009). To a lesser extent, how the forms of evidence used to access the remote past create gendered versions of history (usually favouring a patrilineal line of descent) has also been a cause for concern.

The problematic nature of relying on direct-line Y-chromosome tests for insights about “who you really are” is highlighted by the example of African-American users of DTC genetic testing seeking more information about their African ancestry, but regularly receiving results characteristic of European ancestry due to the grim realities of the sexual exploitation of female slaves by European owners (Tyler 2008; Nelson 2016). By way of contrast, discovering that one has a Y-chromosome characteristic or not of Viking ancestry may be seen as less of an existential challenge to one’s sense of self, and more of a form of recreation. However, as Sommer (2012) cautions, recreational genomics cannot necessarily be separated from wider political contestations of identity, culture, and gender.

In a similar vein, Nash (2012, 2015) argues that the cultural focus on “founding fathers”, such as Genghis Khan, to explain patterns of Y-chromosome variation (and genetic variation more broadly) draw on and simultaneously naturalise a patriarchal understanding of kinship. 

She also argues that popular accounts of such research tend towards a nostalgia for an imagined “heroic” past of simpler gender roles: one that represents men as warriors, women as passive, or even as possessions, and can “conjure up images of a harsher and simpler world of unlimited and often violent sex enjoyed by powerful men” (Nash 2015, p. 149).

Such a patriarchal “heroic” past chimes in with what Halewood and Hannam (2001, p. 566) have referred to as the “Anglo-American stereotypical representation of Viking heritage”: that of “sea-faring, sexist, and blood thirsty men raping and pillaging”. 

Even when Vikings are disassociated from violence and rape, they are still represented as somehow essentially masculine, and that this is encoded biologically. For instance, Kroløkke (2009) analysed the success of the Danish sperm bank, Cryos International in marketing its product as “Viking sperm”, and thereby as representing a genetically encoded masculine ideal.

Within this context, for an individual man to seek to establish his “Viking ancestry” is to situate himself, deliberately or otherwise, within a certain historical–cultural discourse of masculinity. 

LOL: Davidski, they've got you down buddy!  Substitute "Viking" in that sentence with "R1b" or "R1a" and half the "Bronze Age Studs" at Eurogenes will be crying in their soup.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I enjoy your work very much, I hope you begin posting again!