GENETIC AFTERLIVES, black Jewish indigeneity in South Africa

: Tamarkin (N.)

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260pp., illus., maps, paperback, Durham, 2020


In 1997, M. E. R. Mathivha, a elder of the black Jewish Lemba people of South Africa, informed the Lemba Cultural Association that a recent DNA study substantiated their ancestral connections to Jews.

 “Genetic Afterlives is a prescient examination of the Lemba community in southern Africa, a group that has long fought for public recognition of their claims to Jewishness over and against the identities imposed upon them as the price of admission into the political landscape of contemporary South Africa and beyond. Using careful ethnographic and archival research, Noah Tamarkin crafts an expansive portrait of the sparks that fly when contested oral histories, state-sanctioned social policies, and cutting-edge genetic research are held in critical and productive tension. This is a significant contribution to Jewish studies, African studies, anthropology, and science studies all at the same time. A very powerful read!” John L. Jackson Jr., author of Thin Description: ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem


“In this major contribution to critical global Indigenous studies, Noah Tamarkin takes up a unique case study at the intersection of race, nation, and indigeneity while also explaining complex genome science and theoretical insights in accessible language that will resonate with diverse audiences.” Kim TallBear, author of Native American DNA: tribal belonging and the false promise of genetic science

Noah Tamarkin is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University and Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER).