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Annual Community Forum

The Cultural Politics of DNA: The 39th Annual Community Forum

Presented in partnership with UCalgary Alumni. The Alumni Engagement Partnership Fund has generously provided us with support that allowed us to Livestream the forum. You can watch the entire proceedings from May 3, 2019 here: 

Or, you can view the edited videos of the morning session here:

Watch Part 1
Opening Remarks
M. Susan Lindee, PhD, “The DNA Experience: Consuming Identity in the Twenty-First Century."

Watch Part 2
Kim TallBear, PhD, “American Progress Redux: Elizabeth Warren’s DNA and Settler Mythology.”
Jackie Stacey, PhD, “The Sexual Politics of Cloning Films.”

Last fall, Senator Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test to ward off criticism that she fabricated a Native American heritage; the release of the test was subsequently criticized by the Cherokee Nation. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin said in a statement that “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” 

Meanwhile, DNA databases such as GEDMatch are increasingly being used to solve cold cases and to prove or disprove paternity, often by accessing information that was stored for different purposes.  The NYTimes reports that “60 percent of Americans of Northern European descent — the primary group using these sites — can be identified through such databases whether or not they’ve joined one themselves, according to a study published today in the journal Science.

Podcasts, true crime shows, family history documentaries and police procedurals all attest to a cultural obsession with, and a faith in, the potential of DNA to reveal some kind of truth. This seminar will explore the cultural politics of DNA.  What is behind the current fascination with DNA testing, and more generally, what does it say about truth, race and identity in the current era?

Invited Guest Speakers

  • Kim TallBear, PhD, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience & Environment; she is the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science, presenting “American Progress Redux: Elizabeth Warren’s DNA and Settler Mythology”;   
  • Jackie Stacey, PhD, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The University of Manchester and author of The Cinematic Life of the Gene, presenting “The Sexual Politics of Cloning Films,” and
  • M. Susan Lindee, PhD, Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania; she is author of Moments of Truth in Genetic Medicine and The DNA Mystique: The Gene as Cultural Icon, presenting “The DNA Experience: Consuming Identity in the Twenty-First Century.”


The Annual Community Forum at the Calgary Institute for the Humanities

2017 Annual Community Forum

Each year the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) at the University of Calgary identifies a theme of pressing concern to our city, and invites three distinguished researchers to offer their perspectives on it. We recently concluded a series on the Environmental Humanities, exploring environmental concerns from a humanities perspective: 

The Annual Community Forum was established "to bring together scholars and community participants for the discussion of problems important to society." The first seminar was on "Calgary's Growth: Bane or Boon?" (1981). In later years, the seminar would continue to address topical issues, often well ahead of their time: "Evolution of Multiculturalism" (1988); "Dilemmas of Reconciliation" (1999); "Speed Limits, Stop Lights, and Driver Training for the Information Highway" (1996).

Be sure not to miss out. Sign up for the CIH Newsletter and you will receive upcoming announcements about all of the CIH's public programming, including our next Forum. Visit and click on the + beside "Calgary Institute for the Humanities".

  • Calgary’s Growth: Bane or Boon? (1981)
  • Ethical Issues in the Allocation of Health Care Resources * (1982)
  • The Use and Abuse of language * (1983)
  • Quality of Life vs Economic Growth: Can Less Mean More? (1984)
  • The Role of the Modern Union (1985)
  • The Future of Work (1986)
  • The Administration of Criminal Justice: Aspirations and Reality * (1987)
  • Evolution of Multiculturalism * (1988)
  • Privacy * (1989)
  • Civil Disobedience * (1990)
  • Health Care for the Elderly * (1991)
  • Arts the Soul of the Community * (1992)
  • Education in an Uncertain Age * (1993)
  • Family Structures and Social Change * (1994)
  • Violence Against Women * 1995
  • Speed Limits, Stop Lights & Driver Training for the Information Highway * (1996)
  • Alberta in 2010 * (1997)
  • Navigating the Information Rich Society * (1998)
  • Dilemmas of Reconciliation * (1999)
  • Designing Humans: Planning the Perfect Gene Pool ** (2000)
  • Private Lives, Public Knowledge? ** (2001)
  • Protest and Power ** (2002)
  • Changing Philosophies of Work and Leisure - The Canadian Dream ** (2003)
  • What does it mean to be Green? ** (2004)
  • What is the Canadian Military? Rethinking it from the Ground Up ** (2005)
  • The Canadian Judicial System. The Role of Canadian Judges as Makers or Interpreters of the Law ** (2006)
  • Identity on Line. Views of the Community and Self ** (2007)
  • Homelessness. Private and Public Responses ** (2008)
  • Why People Apologize: Public Apologies and Their Consequences ** (2009)
  • Great Expectations: Citizens’ Expectations and Entitlements ** (2010)
  • Untangling Complexity ** (2011)
  • The Question of Optimism ** (2012)
  • Do It Yourself Health. Self-Care Health (2013)
  • Why are we all talking about food? (2014)
  • Humanities for the Environment: Creativity not Catastrophe in a World of Change (2015)
  • Calgary: City of Animals (2016)***
  • Water in the West: Rights of/to Water (2017)***
  • Living with Plants (2018)***

* Published Proceedings: 15 volumes
** Broadcast on CBC, Ideas: 13 programmes
*** Edited Anthologies


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