Elodie Grossi

Fracturing Whiteness: The Use of DNA Ancestry Tests by White Nationalists

This presentation tackles the various social uses of genetic ancestry tests by white nationalists. We collected over 1000 posts from a white nationalist message board, Stormfront, and we focused mainly on threads in which users presented/confronted their test results with one another and debated about the ’scope’ of whiteness and its limitation using several definitions of whiteness (biological, cultural, social) to exclude or to include themselves into whiteness. We are specifically concerned with how white nationalists are using genetics to reify racial categories and how white nationalists make claims about white identities using ‘scientific evidence’. One little-known fact is that white nationalists selectively use genetic ancestry tests to advance ideological claims about the threats of miscegenation to the white race. One thread about DNA testing, with nearly 900 posts, begun in 2004, continues to elicit participation in 2017. Members return to debate the significance of genetics, the credibility of DNA testing agencies, and how to manage undesirable testing results.

Using Goffman’s analytical framework about stigma, we attempt to analyze the strategies and reactions of white nationalists when they take genetic tests and are confronted with the stigma of discovering they are partially non-white. What are the strategies that white nationalists follow in order to ‘save’ their white identity from their new mixed genetic identity? How do other white nationalist peers react to the fact that some of their test results show that they are not 100% white? What inclusion/exclusion processes can we analyze? How do these debates challenge past concepts of whiteness built on the concept of the one-drop rule? The present article therefore examines key strategies that white nationalists use in order to mitigate the stigma of having non-white DNA.

Le 27 avril 2017 - Université Paris-Diderot, Bât. Olympe de Gouges