Noah Tamarkin is an associate professor of Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies. His book Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa (Duke University Press in 2020) received the 2022 Jordan Schnitzer Prize in Social Science, Anthropology, and Folklore from the Association for Jewish Studies and the 2022 honorable mention for the Diana Forsythe Prize from the American Anthropological Association's Committee for the Anthropology of Science Technology and Computing, Society for the Anthropology of Work, and General Anthropology Division. It ethnographically examines the politics of race, religion, and recognition among Lemba people, Black South Africans who were part of Jewish genetic ancestry studies in the 1980s and 1990s. His current ethnographic research examines the introduction and implementation of South Africa’s national forensic DNA database, the forensic genetics networks that it has fostered, and its implications for postapartheid South African and global politics of surveillance statecraft, human rights, and carcerality. At Cornell, he teaches courses that explore race and religion; borders and belonging; policing, carcerality and abolition; biology and society; and the temporalities of genetics. He is also a research associate at University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Tamarkin has conducted ethnographic field research in South Africa since 2004. His research projects examine how DNA transforms power and politics as it becomes unevenly part of everyday life through technologies like ancestry testing and criminal forensics. His first book Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa (Duke University Press in 2020) focused on genetic ancestry in relation to race, citizenship, diaspora, and indigeneity in South Africa. His current book project examines the recent expansion of forensic genetics in South Africa, raising questions about postcolonial forensic science and emerging worlds of carcerality, policing, and securitization. It asks how, in a context where science, race, and law have long been contested, DNA becomes legally meaningful and to what ends. This project has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Ohio State University’s Criminal Justice Research Center, and the Cornell Society for the Humanities. Tamarkin's work has also appeared in the journals Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, History and Anthropology, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.
Awards and Honors
2022 Jordan Schnitzer Prize in Social Science, Anthropology, and Folklore, Association for Jewish Studies, for Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa. Duke University Press (2020).
2022 Diana Forsythe Prize Honorable Mention, American Anthropological Association Committee for the Anthropology of Science Technology and Computing, the Society for the Anthropology of Work, and the General Anthropology Division, for Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa. Duke University Press (2020).
2015 American Anthropological Association General Anthropology Division Prize for Exemplary Cross-Field Scholarship for “Genetic Diaspora: Producing Knowledge of Genes and Jews in Rural South Africa.” Cultural Anthropology. 29.3: 552-574 (2014).
- Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.
Articles and Book Chapters:
- "Legislating Forensic Genetics in South Africa: Science, Justice, and the Occlusion of Race in Postapartheid DNA Databasing" in Law, Practice and Politics of Forensic DNA Profiling: Forensic Genetics and Their Technolegal Worlds, eds. Victor Toom, Amade M'charek, and Mattias Wienroth, 2023. 72-90. New York: Routledge.
- "Afterword: Data, Life, and Worlds in an Anthropology of Bioinformation" in Bioinformation: Worlds and Futures, eds. Silvia Posocco and EJ Gonzalez-Polledo, 2022. 183-188. New York: Routledge.
- “Forensics and Fortification in South African Self-Captivity.” History and Anthropology, 2019. 30.5: 521-526.
- Year in Review Essay: “Time and Relational Possibility: Cultural Anthropology in 2017.” American Anthropologist, 2018. 120.2: 305-327.
- “Engagements with Decolonization and Decoloniality in and at the Interfaces of STS: Introduction,” co-authored with Kristina Lyons and Juno Parreñas. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 2017. 3.1: 1-10.
- “Genetic Ancestry and Decolonizing Possibilities.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 2017. 3.1:14-19.
- “Jewish Genetics.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Jewish Studies, edited by Naomi Seidman. New York: Oxford University Press. October 26, 2015.
- “Genetic Diaspora: Producing Knowledge of Genes and Jews in Rural South Africa.” Cultural Anthropology, 2014. 29.3: 552-574. (Awarded the 2015 American Anthropological Association General Anthropology Prize for Exemplary Cross-Field Scholarship; Reprinted 2016 in Déjá Lu. 4.1: 1)
- “African Indigenous Citizenship,” co-authored with Rachel Giraudo. The Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies, 2014. Edited by Engin F. Isin and Peter Nyers, 545-556. New York: Routledge.
- “Religion as Race, Recognition as Democracy: Lemba ‘Black Jews’ in South Africa.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2011. 637.1: 148-164.
In the news
- ‘Genetic Afterlives’ receives book prize
- Noah Tamarkin's book given awards
- Tamarkin's Book Receives Honorable Mention for the Diana Forsythe Prize
- New Jewish studies major approved in College of Arts & Sciences
- What to read in 2022? A&S faculty weigh in
- Society for the Humanities 'Afterlives' theme draws record interest