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Accepted Paper:

"You're half of that person genetically": searching for origins in the experience of sperm donor conceived adults (UK, France)  

Author:

Anaïs Martin (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:

As origins have emerged as a central notion in the definition of personal identity in contemporary Euro-American societies, the use of genetic genealogy websites by donor conceived adults in order to identify donors and donors siblings questions the link between kinship and personhood.

Paper long abstract:

A few months after doing a DNA test, Amy, who was conceived thanks to an anonymous sperm donation in the 1990s in the United Kingdom (UK), was matched with a "half-sibling" on a genetic genealogy website. She expresses how strange she feels about being related to a stranger: "I find it quite hard to understand in the sense of I think it's really strange how you're half of the person genetically".

Origins have emerged as a central notion in the definition of personal identity in contemporary Euro-American societies. In new kinship forms such as donor conception, where procreation and kinship do not overlap, the connection to donors and donor siblings questions the link between kinship and personhood. What does it mean to be genetically related to a donor and/or a donor sibling? What impact does the knowledge of such connections have on the way donor offspring define themselves? This paper will explore how origins in donor conception question personhood and the notion of identity from the point of view of donor offspring. I will focus more specifically on searches for origins through DNA testing and genetic genealogy websites.

The paper relies on a social anthropology qualitative study conducted between October 2017 and December 2019 through in-depths interviews with 52 sperm donor conceived adults in the UK (27) and in France (25). Among them, 30 have searched for origins through DNA testing and 20 have found the donor, a member of his family, and/or a donor sibling.

Panel P161
Rethinking margins through personhood