Studies on the genetic lineage of Indians could serve dubious ends
An academic interest in our genealogy should not end up as a political prop for false distinctions
Trying to find out where we came from can be a fun parlour game. As multi-generational families become less of a norm, and children and grandchildren live in far-off places, curiosity of the past can be healthy. But as the American author and academic Maya Jasanoff wrote recently in the New Yorker, such curiosity taken to its logical end could evoke a sense of cultural superiority that can turn into ethnic pride, which, taken to an extreme, may stir up notions of racial purity, whose consequences can be catastrophic, as history has shown. Most Americans who sign up for web-based services that provide access to genealogical information do so to learn more about who their long-lost cousins are. On the banks of the Ganga, Hindu geneologists promise to trace your ancestry up to several generations. It can be entertaining and can yield a few surprises. And then? To what end?