pp 1–18 | Cite as

Making up families: how DNA analysis does/does not verify relatedness in family reunification in Finland

  • Anna-Maria Tapaninen
  • Ilpo HelénEmail author
Original Article


This article examines the role of DNA testing in immigration management practices in which individuals and their kin relationships are modified as objects of investigation: defined, categorised and “made up” (Hacking in Historical ontology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2002) as families. Analysis focuses on the interplay of documents (or lack thereof), narratives and DNA analysis that produces evidentiary facts and knowledge about migrants and, simultaneously, forges relationships between individuals, families and other collectives. Analysis of the Finnish administrative and legal data concerning family reunification shows that DNA testing does much more than just provide evidence of the existence of a genetic tie between alleged family members; testing can also be translated into proof of ‘true’ families or extended to test the credibility of the applicants. Via translations and extensions, the accuracy of DNA analysis is intertwined with the contingencies of decision-making in the context of immigration management. Related to this, the article demonstrates that DNA testing supports the process by which immigration authorities in the Global North constitute the family as contingent, indefinite and even arbitrary, rather than consolidating a clear and solid model of eligibility for family reunification.


DNA testing Family reunification Immigration management Finland 



This study was funded by the Academy of Finland (Grant Number 135266) and the Kone Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland

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