Identity, citizenship, and nationhood in the post-genome era

Project Participants

CITIGEN is an international collaborative research project that looks at the uses of modern and ancient genomic data in shaping public understandings of the past and our individual and collective identities. The completion of the human genome project in 2003 marked a watershed in our capacity to convert our own genetic material into a novel source of information about our collective pasts. Thanks to the introduction of new DNA sequencing technologies and advances in ancient DNA research, scientists are now beginning to offer new insights to age‐old questions: who are we, and where do we come from?

The current stream of genomic data presents both opportunities and challenges for interpreting human histories. Humanities scholars are uniquely equipped to supply complementary data and critical perspectives capable of contextualising and qualifying the new insights provided by current genomic research. Currently, however, a general lack of genetic literacy in the humanities means that essential voices are often missing from the narratives that are beginning to reshape our understandings of European and world histories.

Headquartered at the University of Copenhagen and involving academic partners from Iceland, Ireland, and the UK, as well as a number of associated non-academic partners, CITIGEN aims to respond to these issues by providing a collaborative, trans‐national framework for a constructive dialogue between the humanities and the natural sciences regarding the uses of genomic data in the study of human population histories. Within this framework, we will focus on three main research questions:


  1. How are genomic studies being used to shape public understandings of the past, and what is the current impact of this new knowledge upon European societies?
  2. How are interpretations of emergent molecular data affecting historically constructed notions of citizenship, identity, and nationhood – and vice versa?
  3. How can the humanities and natural sciences collaborate to develop integrated approaches that promote responsible readings of the past?

By framing our research in this way, we plan to highlight not only the potential, but also the constraints of genetic data with regards to (re)writing human histories, and to develop a richer understanding of the human past and its uses in the present.

Associated Partners: 

AP 1: AncestryDNA (

AP 2: Eneclann Ltd. (

AP 3: Sense about Science (

AP 4: Pint of Science (