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The Flesh Remembers

How do past traumas echo across generations? In the past few decades, the emerging field of epigenetics has been steadily advancing. This study examines how the blueprint of DNA can be interpreted in vastly different ways depending on the circumstances concerning not only a single person, but also their parents or even grandparents. The adverse effects of genocides, famines, wars, stress, and poor mental health can be passed on from parents to children through the methylation patterns developed during these experiences. If present, methyl groups essentially can turn off a section of DNA, thus creating the potential for an infinite number of different gene expressions for a single individual.

Epigenetics puts the dark sides of inheritance on display, serving as a medium through which violence can haunt us and our children decades after a traumatic event. This genetic scar can tell the stories of the worst humanity has had to endure, even as the world at large seems to forget. With the discovery of epigenetics, we are beginning to scratch the surface of something that was previously more of a cultural or spiritual mind; the flesh remembers. 


Music by Molly Flynn, a second year undergraduate student at the New England Conservatory.

Dedicated to Sarah Halimi, we remember.

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