Defiance College Alumna Presents Lecture on Modern Identity

By: Alexandra Bevins

Dr. Anita Foeman, an alumna of Defiance College, presented a lecture considering “Identity in the Age of Ancestral DNA” on Thursday, September 21st in the Schomburg Auditorium. The event was well attended by Defiance College students and members of the community. President Mankey and Mayor McCann introduced the speaker. While at Defiance College, Dr. Foeman was a member of the debate team and studied communications, graduating in 1976. Dr. Foeman provided insight into the evolution of the field of genetics and considered how the mass production of DNA testing has affected personal and familial identity narratives. She noted that she was interested in combining the emerging field of genetic research with research ideas regarding identity construction. 

Dr. Foeman chronicled the evolution of DNA testing from its inception to modern practices. She noted that when she began, few labs conducted genetic testing, and results indicated a person’s ancestral origins broadly, whereas today, millions of individuals participate in personalized testing through private companies such as Ancestry and receive precise information regarding their ancestors’ geographic and ethnic origins. She noted that technology advances personal understandings of identity as individuals can better understand their family stories after genetic testing. She described how our modern genetic pool is more diverse due to advancements in transportation as people groups are less confined by space and travel more than previous generations. Dr. Foeman recounted several cases where individuals were surprised that they had different genetic makeup than they initially thought. However, they often embraced these stories as elements of a rich and complex family history. Dr. Foeman closed by noting that “we have more than one identity” and genetic research is one way of exploring and conveying unique personal and familial histories. 

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