To be “genetic” is to draw a connection. Genetic comes from the Greek genetikos, meaning “origin” or “resulting from a common origin,” as used by Charles Darwin (2002). Based on the gene—a heuristic from the Greek genea, or “generation,” used by Danish botanist Wilhelm Johannsen to refer to a conception of heredity (Johannsen 1911, 130). Genetics, or the study of patterns of genes, is used to trace differentiation between individuals and social units—families, patients, communities, and nation-states—through the history of global migration and the “mixing and mating” that result in shared genes. Mapping the frequency of genes across individuals and groups and their association with disease and conditions has become a focus of genetic research. By identifying the presence and absence of genes from one generation to the next, genetic influence becomes a measurable characteristic subjected to statistical analysis used to explain human experience and identity. As such, genetic connection has become a focus of scholarly debate on what it reveals about the past and how genetic explanations can powerfully suggest the future.

This essay may be found on page 95 of the printed volume.

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