Institute for the Study of Societal Issues
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Biotechnologies and Immigration: Biological Citizenship and the Use of DNA Testing for Family Reunification
Torsten Heinemann
Professor of Sociology
Institute of Sociology, University of Hamburg
Tuesday, October 20
Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way
Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine
Since the 1990s, many countries around the world have begun to use DNA analysis to establish biological relatedness in family reunification cases. Family reunification refers to the right of family members living abroad to join relatives who hold long-term residence permits in a given country. While this right has been an integral part of many countries’ immigration policies, the current trend among host countries seems to favor more restrictive family reunification policies. To be reunited, family members have to prove their family status by official documents. Even if applicants possess the required documents, immigration authorities often reject the information as they question the authenticity of the documents. In this context, many countries resort to DNA tests to resolve cases in which they consider the information presented on family relations to be incomplete or unsatisfactory. Today, at least 21 nation states have incorporated the use of DNA testing into decision-making on immigration.

In this talk, I will present the results of an international research project on the use of DNA testing for family reunification in Europe and will compare them with the situation in the USA. I outline general trends of DNA analysis for family reunification and analyze the societal and political implications of parental testing in this context. I argue that DNA analyses for family reunification establish and strengthen a biological family model which is in contrast to the more pluralistic and social concepts of family in many societies in Europe and North America. I will then relate my findings to the ongoing debate on biological citizenship and show that biological criteria play an important role in decision-making on citizenship rights in nation-states. I argue that the use of parental testing for immigration endorses a biological concept of the family that is mobilized to diminish citizenship rights. This argument is based on an extensive document analysis as well as interviews with representatives of international governmental organizations, international and national NGOs and immigration authorities, lawyers specializing in immigration law, geneticists and those applying for family reunification.
Torsten Heinemann is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Hamburg, Germany and a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at UC Berkeley. Prior to this, he was a Senior Researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin and PI at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Professor Heinemann studied sociology, political science and psychology in Frankfurt and was a scholar of the German National Academic Foundation. He is a member of the scientific committee of the Brocher Foundation in Geneva and the associate editorial board of Sociology. His research interests include social problems and social control, social and critical theory, social studies of science and technology with a special focus on the neurosciences and genetics, cultural sociology, and public understanding of science. He is the co-editor of Suspect Families: DNA Analysis, Family Reunification and Immigration Policies (Ashgate, 2015).
This is a brown bag event - feel free to bring your lunch! Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible.
For more information, please contact or (510) 642-0813. 
For wheelchair access, please call or email one day prior to the event.
Copyright © 2015 Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley, All rights reserved.

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