Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Tudor Parfitt

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Oren Stier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Whitney Bauman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Judaism, Jewish Identity, Sephardim, Sephardi Identity, Genetic Testing, Direct-to-Consumer DNA Testing, Population Genetics, Reference Populations, Ambiguity, Belonging

Date of Defense



Today, individuals may purchase genetic tests that promise to “reveal” one’s “true self” through ancestry composition reports, health reports, and lists of DNA relatives. Such tests add another dimension to the ongoing debate about what it means to be Jewish, but also what it means to be “legitimately” Sephardi. Through qualitative interviews, this thesis illuminates the experiences of Sephardim who received identity-affirming DNA test results and Sephardim who received identity non-affirming DNA test results. Findings suggest that contemporary Sephardim consider a link to the Iberian Peninsula as indicative of Sephardi identity, despite expanding definitions of the label. They also suggest that motivations for taking at-home DNA tests may be overwhelmingly relational in nature. Respondents with an ambiguous identity orientation tended to assign more importance to their test results, while respondents with a less ambiguous identity orientation tended to do the opposite, in keeping with the hypothesis that at-home DNA tests are only as “authoritative” or meaningful as individuals or groups want them to be.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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