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In recent years DNA testing has increasingly been used by immigration authorities to facilitate family reunifications and to verify the family relations of applicants. This has affected immigration procedures and the understanding of the concept of family. As TORSTEN HEINEMANN explains in this video, the researchers investigated how DNA testing is introduced into the immigration process and the implications this has for the parties involved. By comparing the procedures in different EU countries and by interviewing everyone concerned in the process, the researchers found that several double standards are at work. These concern the alleged voluntariness to agree to a DNA test in the first place, the limitation of a purely biological understanding of the idea of family, and the right to control one’s own genetic information. The findings indicate best practice recommendations for immigration policy making.


Torsten Heinemann is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Hamburg, where his particular focus lies on questions of Social Problems and Social Control. In 2015, he was appointed Marie Curie Fellow of the University of Berkeley. Previously, he held the position of Senior Research Fellow at the Humboldt University Berlin. His PhD was funded by the German National Academic Foundation and he was also Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and New York University, as well as Scholar in Residence at the Brocher Foundation, Geneva. His research interests include questions on the societal implications of medical, genetic and neuroscientific research.


University of Hamburg (Universität Hamburg)

Universität Hamburg is the largest institution for research and education in the north of Germany. As one of the country's largest universities, we offer a diverse course spectrum and excellent research opportunities. The University boasts numerous interdisciplinary projects in a broad range of subjects and an extensive partner network with leading institutions on a regional, national and international scale. Universität Hamburg offers approximately 170 degree programs in the following eight faculties: Faculty of Law; Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences; Faculty of Medicine; Faculty of Education; Faculty of Humanities; Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences; Faculty of Psychology and Human Movement; Faculty of Business Administration (Hamburg Business School). The University was founded in 1919 by local citizens. Important founding figures include Senator Werner von Melle and the merchant Edmund Siemers. (Source: University of Hamburg)
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Original publication

Biological Citizenship Reconsidered: The Use of DNA Analysis by Immigration Authorities in Germany

Heinemann Torsten and Lemke Thomas
Science, Technology, & Human Values
Published in 2014

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