Week 13 Emma Monaghan

The reading this week was very interesting to me and left me wondering quite a bit, wondering about myself as well as about identity in general. “Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries” was written about the story of Alice Collins Plebuch and her unexpected DNA test results. Plebuch, as well many people, at the time of this article, racking up to 2 million individuals decided to use a 23andMe DNA testing kit just for fun to learn more about herself but learned much more than she bargained for. Plebuch learned that her father was not who she thought he was and her aunt was not her aunt and her grandparents on her dad’s side were not her grandparents, by blood relation that is. Through months and months of hopping over many obstacles and searching the databases and asking many many individuals to compare DNA Plebuch and her sister were determined to find out what exactly happened. In this process, they learned that the identity of her father was not a huge family secret but in fact a mistake, that they had been the firsts to uncover. Jim Collins and Phillip Benson were mixed up at the hospital in 1913 and lived their lives as the other. 

While this answered the scientific and surface-level question Plebuch had been asking it opened the door to a number of new questions. The main question became “Who am I and Who was my father?” in terms of identity, not DNA. If Phillip lived Jim’s life as a Jewish American and Jim lived Phillips’s life as an Irish American what was their real identity. Ultimately the question pursued here, that I found relating back to this class was simply what forms your identity? While your genetic making clearly has quite the influence over who you are, does your upbringing make you who you are? What about immigrants from Mexico, or France, or anywhere else who were raised in America? I feel that your DNA and genetic makeup are essential to learning about your technical identity but the way you were raised says much more about your identity

3 thoughts on “Week 13 Emma Monaghan

  1. I think the concept of identity is complex and intriguing. Upbringing, I feel, is the most prominent element, but obviously genetics and heritage also play a large role in identity. Using DNA to uncover identity seems to be a fairly new phenomenon, as it becomes increasingly accessible and accurate, so I think it adds a new element to the concept of one’s identity. Your point about immigrants is interesting! I do wonder if relying on DNA for identity could be detrimental, like immigrants never really being viewed as American because their DNA places them firmly elsewhere.

  2. I think the question of what determines identity is interesting, I wonder if people who were adopted into the family had similar difficulties as to their identity since they likely aren’t from the same ethnicity as their adopted family. However, I can see how the family we followed had difficulties grappling with their new genetic identity especially because they believed they were Irish.
    I think this is an issue that cant be resolved immediately and brings into question how much of your biology affects your own heritage and how much of where you grew up determines that.

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