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Noah Tamarkin

Assistant Professor

Noah Tamarkin

Educational Background

  • PhD Cultural Anthropology with a notation in Feminist Studies, University of California Santa Cruz
  • MA Cultural Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz
  • BA Anthropology, Colorado College



I am a political and legal anthropologist of race, citizenship, and genomics with interdisciplinary commitments to Science and Technology Studies, African Studies, and Jewish Studies. My 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. I have conducted ethnographic field research in South Africa since 2004, and my book Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa was published by Duke University Press in 2020. At Cornell, I teach courses in anthropology, science & technology studies, and Jewish studies on race; religion; borders and belonging; policing and carcerality; and biology and society. I am also a research associate at University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in Johannesburg, South Africa and a member of the editorial collective of Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, and Anthropology.


Sociocultural, political, and legal anthropology. Feminist, global, and postcolonial science & technology studies. Jewish studies. Race and ethnicity, citizenship, diaspora, indigeneity, genetics and genomics, policing, gender and sexuality. South Africa.


  • Anthropology
  • Jewish Studies Program
  • Science and Technology Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Anthropology
  • Science and Technology Studies


  • Jewish Studies program


My book Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa (Duke University Press, 2020), asks how the meaning, stakes, and politics of genetic data change if we approach them from the perspective of research subjects rather than genetics researchers. It shows how genetic ancestry is a multivalent political object with the potential to not only reinforce exclusionary ideas about origins but also to disrupt them.

My current ethnographic research examines the introduction and implementation of legislation to expand South Africa’s national criminal DNA database. This project asks how, in a context where science, race, and law have long been contested, DNA becomes legally meaningful and to what ends.  

My research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, Fulbright IIE, and The Ohio State University’s Criminal Justice Research Center and Division of Arts and Humanities and my work has appeared in Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, History and Anthropology, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.



Spring 2021



Articles and Book Chapters:

Public Scholarship: