Noah Tamarkin

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Noah Tamarkin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University, is a cultural anthropologist of race, citizenship, and genomics with interdisciplinary commitments to Science and Technology Studies, African Studies, and Jewish Studies. His research projects examine how DNA transforms power and politics as it becomes unevenly part of everyday life through technologies like ancestry testing and criminal forensics. He has conducted ethnographic field research in South Africa since 2004. His book Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa was published by Duke University Press in September 2020. Focusing on the politics of race, religion, and recognition among Lemba people, Black South Africans who were part of Jewish genetic ancestry studies in the 1980s and 1990s, this ethnography asks how the meaning, stakes, and politics of genetic data change if we approach them from the perspective of research subjects rather than genetics researchers. The book shows how genetic ancestry is a multivalent political object with the potential to not only reinforce exclusionary ideas about origins but also to disrupt them. Guided by Lemba people’s negotiations of their belonging as diasporic Jews, South African citizens, and indigenous Africans, the book considers new ways to think about belonging that can acknowledge the importance of historical and sacred ties to land without valorizing autochthony, borders, or other technologies of exclusion. His current ethnographic research examines the introduction and implementation of legislation to expand South Africa’s national criminal DNA database. This project asks how, in a context where science, race, and law have long been contested, DNA becomes legally meaningful and to what ends. For a list of publications, see