Profile image of Emma Kowal

Prof Emma Kowal



Research Fellow


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.

Read more on Emma's profile

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


Consent: Data-sharing for indigenous peoples.

Emma Kowal, Bastien Llamas, Sarah Tishkoff

(2017), Vol. 546, pp. 474-, Nature, C1


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

N Priest, J Walton, F White, E Kowal, B Fox, Y Paradies

(2016), Vol. 19, pp. 808-834, Race ethnicity and education, C1


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

E Kowal, L Gallacher, I Macciocca, M Sahhar

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


Indigenous biospecimen collections and the cryopolitics of frozen life

E Kowal, J Radin

(2015), Vol. 51, pp. 63-80, Journal of sociology, C1-1


Sociology of bio-knowledge at the limits of life

E Kowal, A Petersen

(2015), Vol. 51, pp. 3-8, Journal of sociology, C1-1


Time, indigeneity and white anti-racism in Australia

E Kowal

(2015), Vol. 26, pp. 94-111, Australian journal of anthropology, C1-1


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

E Kowal, A Greenwood, R McWhirter

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


Indigenous blood and ethical regimes in the United States and Australia since the 1960s

J Radin, E Kowal

(2015), Vol. 42, pp. 749-765, American ethnologist, C1


Genetics and Indigenous communities: ethical issues

E Kowal

(2015), Vol. 9, pp. 962-968, International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (second edition), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, B1-1


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

E Kowal

(2015), Vol. 21, pp. 173-204, Cultural studies review, C1


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

J Walton, N Priest, E Kowal, F White, K Brickwood, B Fox, Y Paradies

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


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

N Priest, J Walton, F White, E Kowal, A Baker, Y Paradies

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


Critical evaluation of a program to foster reflexive antiracism

H Franklin, Y Paradies, E Kowal

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


Development of the reflexive antiracism scale ? indigenous

Y Paradies, H Franklin, E Kowal

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


Reflexive antiracism : a novel approach to diversity training

E Kowal, H Franklin, Y Paradies

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


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

E Kowal, J Radin, J Reardon

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


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

E Kowal

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


Genetic research and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

E Kowal, G Pearson, C Peacock, S Jamieson, J Blackwell

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


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

E Kowal, G Frederic

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


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

E Kowal

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


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

E 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

E Kowal, I Anderson

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


Responsibility, Noel Pearson and Indigenous disadvantage in Australia

E Kowal

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


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

H Anderson, E Kowal

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


Towards reflexive antiracism

E Kowal, H Franklin, Y 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


The stigma of White privilege: Australian anti-racists and Indigenous improvement

E Kowal

(2011), Vol. 25, pp. 313-333, Cultural studies, C1-1


Indigenous Australian students' participation rates in higher education: exploring the role of universities

E Pechenkina, E Kowal, Y Paradies

(2011), Vol. 40, pp. 59-68, Australian journal of Indigenous education, C1-1


Indigenous cultural training for health workers in Australia

R Downing, E Kowal, Y Paradies

(2011), Vol. 23, pp. 247-257, International journal for quality in health care, C1-1



Australian Competitive Grants

Using museums to counter racism and increase acceptance of diversity among young people

Prof Yin Paradies, Prof Emma Kowal, Dr Naomi Priest, A/Prof Margaret Kelaher, Prof Fethi Mansouri, Dr Moya McFadzean, Ms Carolyn Meehan, Ms Linda Sproul

ARC Linkage - Projects Rnd 1

  • 2014: $63,901
  • 2013: $125,271

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

Prof Emma Kowal

ARC DECRA - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

  • 2014: $219,610

Reconciling biological and social Indigeneity in the genomic era - Transfer from the University of Melbourne

Prof Emma Kowal, Prof Yin Paradies, A/Prof Cressida Fforde

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2017: $33,586
  • 2016: $82,299
  • 2015: $48,101

Haunting Biology: Race, Science and Indigeneity in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal

ARC Fellowships - Future Fellowships

  • 2017: $236,376

Other Public Sector Funding

Using museums to counter racism and increase acceptance of diversity among young people

Prof Yin Paradies, Prof Emma Kowal, Dr Naomi Priest, A/Prof Margaret Kelaher, Prof Fethi Mansouri, Dr Moya McFadzean, Ms Carolyn Meehan, Ms Linda Sproul

  • 2014: $40,000
  • 2013: $80,000

National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG)

Prof Emma Kowal

  • 2017: $16,706
  • 2016: $33,412
  • 2015: $50,115


No completed student supervisions to report