FROM GENEALOGY TO GENETIC MEMORY. Visualising Kinship and Deep Ancestry in Media Imagery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Over the last few decades, we have been witnessing a revival of interest in kinship and genealogical research: from family trees on the Web to documentary series, the ways of representing relatedness have developed thanks to the remediation of both ethnographic devices and media technologies. On one hand, this suggests that the fact of visualising kinship connections deals with certain norms of selective remembrance implicitly embodied in social conventions. On the other, it seems quite surprising that such a visual equipment, being currently reinvented by audiovisual devices, lies mostly unexplored. The current literature describes the ways in which ideas of kindship, commonality and connection are taken into account within media fields, such as websites, newspaper reportages, TV documentaries, maps, material culture and science press. But a more systematic analysis of the formal patterns, which are applied to represent family affinities, would help to figure out which communicative and visual strategies could potentially mould the imagined relations users and spectators have with the lives of other people. By analysing two audiovisual products (i.e. the series Who Do You Think You Are? and Momondo’s campaign The DNA Journey),this essay aims to identify the visual forms that are currently matched to construct a real genealogical apparatus. These audiovisual products clearly interweave biological realities with the way they are socially narrated, which also applies to objective data such as records or maps of genetic relatedness. This is the reason why the essay will also explore the genomic imaginary that underpins the apparatus set up to find out individual’s ancestral affinity through DNA test results. Genealogy seen as an imaginative process plays an important role in today’s audiovisual production by affecting the spectator’s experience of an imagined ‘deep past’ and a new sense of identity based on shared roots.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-335
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Audiovisual media
  • family tree
  • genealogical imagination
  • genealogy documentary
  • genetic memory


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