Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 193–224 | Cite as

Genetics, History, and Identity: The Case of the Bene Israel and the Lemba

  • Tudor ParfittEmail author
  • Yulia Egorova


The paper examines the impact of genetic research on the religious identity of the Bene Israel Indian Jewish community and the Lemba Judaising group of southern Africa. It demonstrates how DNA tests which happened to support the possibility of the communities' legends of origin affected their self-perception, the way they are viewed by their neighbors, and their image in the West. It is argued that in both cases what accounted most for the Bene Israel and Lemba responses to the tests was the way the results were portrayed in the mass media, the history of the development of Judaism in their communities, and the local realities.

Key Words

population genetics identity Lemba Bene Israel 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East, School of Oriental and African StudiesUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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