Open Access

Strange DNA: The rise of DNA Analysis for Family Reunification and its Ethical Implications

Genomics, Society and Policy20117:1

Published: 15 December 2011


DNA analysis for family reunification is a longstanding and widespread practice, but also a highly problematic one, as it is a battleground of conflicting values and interests, which have to be carefully weighed against each other: on the one hand, the right of the sovereign state to regulate immigration and prevent fraud and child trafficking; on the other hand, the right to privacy and family life. Beyond the problem of how to balance these different interests, DNA analysis for family reunification brings up the broader problem of biologisation/geneticisation of social relations, as this practice appears to reduce family to its mere biological notion. As there is no comprehensive account of the ethical implications of DNA analysis in the context of family reunification, the present paper will try to fill this gap by addressing the three most striking ethical problems posed by this issue: the privacy issues at stake; the problems concerning the conceptual, legal and social definition of family; and the question whether this practice intends to produce the immigrant as discriminated "bare life" (Agamben) or must rather be seen as a symptom of an ongoing general biologisation/geneticisation of sociality, also influencing family reunification procedures.