Indigenous DNA as A Metaphor: Scientific Debate on the Rediscovery of Taiwanese Ancestry and Nation-Building

Visiting Scholar Talks

Apr 12, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Yu-Yueh Tsai | Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Sheila Jasanoff | Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

The development of genealogical science in the twenty-first century has important implications for national and racial/ethnic construction. In Taiwan, genetic research on the origins of Taiwanese has involved racial/ethnic issues but also the dispute over Taiwan’s national identity with the People’s Republic of China, which claims that “we have the same roots” or “blood is thicker than water.” After the end of martial law (1945-1987), scientific research on multi-origins and genetic makeup of Taiwanese emerged. In particular, Marie Lin,M.D., widely known as “the mother of the research on Taiwanese blood,” and her teams have been devoted to revealing the origins of the ethnic groups in Taiwan. My research pushes the concept of co-production between science and politics (Jasanoff, 2004) further by addressing the “nationalization of biomedicine” and the “biomedicalization of the nation”. I explore how the Taiwan’s changing identity politics, including the emergence of the new categorization of four great ethnic groups, multiculturalism, and Taiwanese nationalism, has profoundly influenced genetic research on Taiwanese genealogy and how scientific findings produced in the lab have then spilled out into both Taiwan and the PRC through journals, media, history textbooks, and public disputes since the 1990s. For genealogical science to play a constructive role in identity-making, this research shows that we need to remain vigilant to genetic technology, scientific knowledge formation, and methodology by looking at scientists’ works and discourses through an STS perspective to extend the epistemological reflection.

Articles related to this talk by Prof. Tsai: 

Wan-Ju Lee & Yu-Yueh Tsai (2022): Governance through scientism: Taiwan Biobank and public controversy, New Genetics and Society

Yu‑Yueh Tsai and Wan‑Ju Lee: An imagined future community: Taiwan Biobank, Taiwanese genome, and nation‑building, BioSocieties (2021) 16:88–115