Arts and Culture

Australian journalist and author Christine Kenneally has written for several publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate and TIME. In her latest book, “The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures,” Kenneally draws on research in genetics, culture and economics to explore where we as humans came from, who we are and where we may be headed.

She is one of the presenters at this year’s IdeaFestival, which gets started next week at the Kentucky Center in Louisville. Her talk, “The Hidden History of ‘Us,’” will cover the ways that genetics AND ideas can both be passed down through generations.

Author, Christine KenneallyCourtesy IdeaFestival

Author, Christine Kenneally

I spoke with Kenneally from her home in Melbourne. Listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

On what to expect from her presentation at IdeaFestival:

“I look primarily at the cultural ideas but also the biology, the genetics that comes down to us from our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents. But even like way beyond that — thousands of years back. And I just look at the ways in which our lives today are shaped by things that happened in the past.”

On digging into her own past:

“For me, the mystery of my family was really a more immediate one. It was less the ethnic or sort of historic ancestral background than family stories. You know, one of the things that got me started on the book was finding out that my father’s father was not the person we thought he was. So that kind of kicked me off into exploring all these different things that get passed down to us.”

Kenneally will present at IdeaFestival on Friday, Sept. 30. Details can be found here.


Tara Anderson is the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the objects that tell our stories.