A Spitting Image

This project investigates how the new availability of direct-to-consumer (DTC) DNA testing shapes the way in which kinship ties and collectives are formed. By utilising the sociology of association and critical and queer kinship studies, we seek to follow the traces of DNA tests from test tubes to databases and, finally, into people's relationships.


Photo by Sangharsh Lohakare on Unsplash

Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Multiple sources (Focus area spearhead projects)

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Project leader

  • University Lecturer
    Johanna Hiitola

Contact person

Other persons

  • PhD Researcher
    Laura Menard

Project description

By approaching new family formation from the viewpoint of the sociology of associations, also called actor-network theory (ANT), we understand that, instead of taking social aggregates, such as a family or society, as a given that can be used to explain other features of human life, these aggregations must be placed at the centre of sociological analysis. We conduct digital ethnography on online sites where volunteers called 'search angels' help individuals to search for their lost biological kin. Our data also consist of essays by and interviews with people who have found surprising new kinships or other information about their origins or who are trying to find their biological kin with the help of DTC DNA testing (such as adoptees and children born through artificial insemination). Our team also interrogates the complex ethical issues surrounding DTC DNA testing, such as situations in which tests reveal sexual violence or other unsettling information. This revolution concerning the availability of genetic knowledge has the potential to completely shift the ways in which intimacies, families and collectives will be perceived at individual, kinship and societal levels. Theoretically, the project develops a sociology of associations and materialist methodologies. Some of the most prominent stakeholders who urgently need more information on DTC genetic technologies and their impacts on family relationships are policy makers and legislators, social work practitioners and clinics and hospitals that offer assisted reproduction.