Is Your DNA You?

Anthropologists wrestle with the complexities of commercial DNA testing.

What does your DNA have to do with who you are? On a journey for answers, SAPIENS hosts Chip Colwell, Jen Shannon, and Esteban Gómez take consumer DNA tests and confront murky, interconnected issues of identity and heredity. Their guides include science journalist Carl Zimmer and anthropologists Deborah Bolnick and Kim TallBear.



Carl Zimmer has authored 13 books about science, including his latest work She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, which traces the history of heredity.

Deborah Bolnick is an incoming associate professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include anthropological genetics, ancient DNA studies, paleoepigenetics, and a variety of other related subjects. Along with John Relethford, she authored the book Reflections of Our Past: How Human History is Revealed in Our Genes, which was published earlier this year.

Kim TallBear is an associate professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies. The University of Minnesota Press published her book Native American DNA in 2013.

Learn more about DNA:

I’ve Got the Neanderthal Blues by Emma Marris

The Ethical Battle Over Ancient DNA by Michael Balter

How Molecular Clocks Are Refining Human Evolution’s Timeline by Bridget Alex and Priya Moorjani

Ancestry Tests Pose a Threat to Our Social Fabric by John Edward Terrell


All music is produced and designed by Matthew Simonson.

SAPIENS is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

Read the transcript of this episode here.