Faculty of Arts and Education


Alfred Deakin Institute


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Bachelor of Arts, University of Melbourne, 2000
Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery, University of Melbourne, 2000
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne, 2007

+61 3 924 45058


I am a cultural and medical anthropologist. My previous work as a medical doctor and public health researcher in Indigenous health settings in Australia has led me to pursue two intersecting lines of theory and empirical research:

• Australian racial politics: Indigeneity and Whiteness, settler colonialism and postcolonialism, racism and anti-racism. Part of this research is presented in my book, Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia (Berghahn, 2015). Read a review in the Monthly here.

• Science and technology studies: the anthropology of biomedical research, genomics, bioethics, and public health. Read an example of my scholarly work in this area here and a piece in the Conversation here.

I am interested in supervising postgraduate projects related to these areas. My publications are available on my academia site.

I tweet at @profemmakowal.

Career highlights

•I received the 2015 Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research, awarded by The Academy of Social Sciences Australia (ASSA).

•I was awarded a National Health & Medical Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2007-2012, followed by an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) that I recently completed. In June 2014 I joined Deakin University where I am Professor of Anthropology in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

•I have received 21 grants and consultancies worth $4.4 million AU.

•Key positions include the Convenor of the Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network (2012-2014) Editor of Postcolonial Studies journal (international journal ranked A in 2010 ERA, from 2013- ), and Deputy Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, Australian National University (2014-).

•I review for over 40 journals and publishers across anthropology, science and technology studies, Indigenous studies, public health, and bioethics.

•I have taught anthropology, Indigenous studies, postcolonial studies and science and technology studies in undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development settings. I have completed 3 PhDs and 13 minor theses/honours students. In 2012, I taught a graduate science and technology studies course at Nanjing University, China. My achievements in teaching were recognised in 2013 by a National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, awarded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.

•I have been a visiting scholar/fellow at Yale University, the University of California, Berkeley, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and the Universidade Federal de Santa Caterina, Florianopolis, Brazil.

Knowledge areas

My current areas of interest include:

  • Australian racial politics, especially Indigeneity and Whiteness
  • Settler colonialism and postcolonialism, racism and anti-racism
  • Science and technology studies, particularly genomics
  • All aspects of Indigenous health
  • Bioethics, biopolitics and public health


I have two main research projects:

  • Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia (Berghahn, 2015)

This project draws on ethnographic research with white, middle-class, left-wing professionals who work in Indigenous health. I produced an analysis of Indigenous governance in the self-determination era which I term 'postcolonial logic'. I argue that the twin desires of equality and difference - to make Indigenous people statistically the same as non-Indigenous people (to 'close the gap') but maintain an essential cultural difference - work in productive tension within the Australian project of postcolonial justice and within other settler states. My book provides an historical, cultural and psychoanalytic understanding of these desires and their effects.

  • From scientific specimen to Indigenous cultural property: The collection and use of Indigenous DNA since the 1960s

Thousands of blood samples collected from Indigenous Australians lie in institutional freezers across the world. Once considered the property of scientists, samples collected for medical research and population genetics are increasingly seen as Indigenous cultural heritage. This transdisciplinary study investigates the provenance and use of Indigenous sample collections held in Australia. Contributing to anthropology, history, science and technology and Indigenous studies, this project addresses problems posed by the collection, storage and use of DNA from Indigenous donors for scientific research and biobanks.


Filter by


‘You are not born being racist, are you?’ Discussing racism with primary aged-children

Dr Naomi Priest, Dr Jessica Walton, Fiona A. White, Prof Emma Kowal, Ms Brandi Nichole Fox, Prof Yin Paradies

(2016), Vol. 19, pp. 808-834, Race, ethnicity & education, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Genetic counseling for Indigenous Australians: an exploratory study from the perspective of genetic health professionals

Prof Emma Kowal, Lyndon Gallacher, Ivan Macciocca, Margaret Sahhar

(2015), Vol. 24, pp. 597-607, Journal of genetic counseling, Berlin, Germany, C1


Welcome to country: acknowledgement, belonging and white anti-racism

Prof Emma Kowal

(2015), Vol. 21, pp. 173-204, Cultural studies review, Sydney, N.S.W., C1


Genetics and Indigenous communities: ethical issues

Prof Emma Kowal

(2015), pp. 962-968, International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (second edition), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1-1


All in the blood: a review of Aboriginal Australians' cultural beliefs about blood and implications for biospecimen research

Prof Emma Kowal, Ms Ash Greenwood, Rebekah E McWhirter

(2015), Vol. 10, pp. 347-359, Journal of empirical research on human research ethics, London, Eng., C1


Talking culture? Egalitarianism, color-blindness and racism in Australian elementary schools

Dr Jessica Walton, Dr Naomi Priest, Prof Emma Kowal, Fiona A. White, Katie Brickwood, Ms Brandi Nichole Fox, Prof Yin Paradies

(2014), Vol. 39, pp. 112-122, Teaching and teacher education, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Critical evaluation of a program to foster reflexive antiracism

Hayley Franklin, Prof Yin Paradies, Prof Emma Kowal

(2014), Vol. 2, pp. 20-46, International journal of social science research, Las Vegas, Nevada, C1-1


Understanding the complexities of ethnic-racial socialization processes for both minority and majority groups : a 30-year systematic review

Dr Naomi Priest, Dr Jessica Walton, Fiona A. White, Prof Emma Kowal, Alison Baker, Prof Yin Paradies

(2014), Vol. 43, pp. 139-155, International journal of intercultural relations, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


Development of the reflexive antiracism scale – indigenous

Prof Yin Paradies, Hayley Franklin, Prof Emma Kowal

(2013), Vol. 32, pp. 348-373, Equality, diversity and inclusion, Bingley, England, C1


Reflexive antiracism : a novel approach to diversity training

Prof Emma Kowal, Hayley Franklin, Prof Yin Paradies

(2013), Vol. 13, pp. 316-336, Ethnicities, London, England, C1


Indigenous body parts, mutating temporalities, and the half-lives of postcolonial technoscience

Prof Emma Kowal, Joanna Radin, Jenny Reardon

(2013), Vol. 43, pp. 465-483, Social studies of science, London, England, C1-1


Orphan DNA: Indigenous samples, ethical biovalue and postcolonial science in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal

(2013), Vol. 43, pp. 578-598, Social studies of science, London, England, C1-1


Race, genetic determinism and the media: an exploratory study of media coverage of genetics and Indigenous Australians

Prof Emma Kowal, Gerald Frederic

(2012), Vol. 8, pp. 1-14, Genomics, society and policy (Life sciences, society and policy, since 2012), Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


Responsibility, Noel Pearson and Indigenous disadvantage in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal

(2012), pp. 43-56, Responsibility, Melbourne, Vic, B1-1


Disturbing pasts and promising futures: the politics of Indigenous genetic research in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal

(2012), pp. 329-347, Biomapping indigenous peoples : towards an understanding of the issues, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1-1


Difficult conversations: talking about Indigenous genetic health research in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal, A/Prof Ian Anderson

(2012), pp. 349-367, Biomapping indigenous peoples : towards an understanding of the issues, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1-1


Culture, history, and health in an Australian Aboriginal community: the case of Utopia

Heather Anderson, Prof Emma Kowal

(2012), Vol. 31, pp. 438-457, Medical anthropology, Abingdon, England, C1-1


Stigma and suffering: white anti-racist identities in Northern Australia.

Prof Emma Kowal

(2012), Vol. 15, pp. 5-21, Postcolonial studies, Melbourne, Vic, C1-1


Genetic research and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Prof Emma Kowal, Glenn Pearson, Chris S Peacock, Sarra E Jamieson, Jenefer Blackwell

(2012), Vol. 9, pp. 419-432, Journal of bioethical inquiry, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, C1-1


Towards reflexive antiracism

Prof Emma Kowal, Hayley Franklin, Prof Yin Paradies

(2011), pp. 133-152, Directions and intersections : proceedings of the 2011 Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association and Indigenous Studies Research Network joint conference, Adelaide, S. A., B1-1