Over the past decade, the DNA ancestry-testing industry—based largely in the United States—has experienced a huge upsurge in popularity, thanks partly to rapidly developing technologies and the falling prices of products. Meanwhile, the notion of “genetic genealogy” has been strongly endorsed by popular television documentary shows in the US, particularly vis-à-vis African-American roots-seekers—for whom these products are offered as a means to discover one’s ancestral “ethnic” origins, thereby “reversing the Middle Passage.” Yet personalized DNA ancestry tests have not had the same reception among people of African descent in other societies that were historically affected by slavery. This paper outlines and contextualizes these divergent responses by examining and comparing the cultural and political meanings that are attached to notions of origin, as well as the way that Blackness has been defined and articulated, in three different settings: the United States, France and Brazil.
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