Profile image of Emma Kowal

Prof Emma Kowal



ARC Future Fellow


Faculty of Arts and Education


Alfred Deakin Institute


Melbourne Burwood Campus


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

+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.

You can listen to a podcast that gives an overview of my research 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 have received 25 grants and consultancies worth over $6 million AU, including a National Health & Medical Research Council postdoctoral fellowship, an Australian Research Council (ARC) postdoctoral fellowship, and an ARC Future Fellowship.
• I have authored over 100 publications including 70 peer-reviewed books, articles and book chapters. Approximately two-thirds of my journal articles appear in high-ranked (A/A* ERA 2010/Q1 Scimago) journals. My work is highly cited for my stage of career and discipline, with 1532 Google Scholar citations and an h-index of 20 (as of July 2019).
• I joined the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University in 2014. I established the Deakin Science and Society Network in 2017 and was co-convenor of the newly-formed Culture, Environment and Science Research Stream, Alfred Deakin Institute, in 2018. I was previously co-convenor of the Diversity and Identity Research Stream (2015-2018).

  • I am on the editorial board of Science, Technology and Human Values; American Ethnologist; and Somatosphere. 
  • I am an Associate Investigator of the Centre for Excellence in Austrlaian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH)
  • I am on the Expert Advisory Committee of the Genomics Health Future Mission, Department of Health

• I was co-Chair of the international Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) 2018 conference.

• I was shortlisted for Australian Financial Review Emerging Leader Award in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
• I received the Mid-Career Research Award from the Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, in 2016.
• I received a Thomson Reuters Women in Research Citation Award in 2015.
•I received the 2015 Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research, awarded by The Academy of Social Sciences Australia (ASSA).
•Key past 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 2013-2018), founding Deputy Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, Australian National University (2014-2017).
•I review for over 50 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 7 PhDs and 15 minor theses/honours students. 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, Nanjing University, China, 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


Currently I have three main research projects:

Haunting Biology: Race, Science and Indigeneity in Australia (ARC Future Fellowship)
This research aims to develop an innovative account of how the history of race science matters in the present through investigating: 1) the varied 20th century scientific efforts to understand Indigenous Australians biologically; and 2) contemporary knowledge-making about Indigenous biological difference in the genomic era. Drawing on the tools of anthropology, history, and science and technology studies, this research aims to re-evaluate the role of biology in Aboriginal studies. A monograph entitled Haunting Biology: Science and Indigeneity in Australia is in preparation.

Reconciling Biological and Social Indigeneity in the Genomic Era (ARC Discovery Project)
Advances in genomics will have profound impacts on contemporary identities, including Indigeneity. A focus on social processes since the 1970s has left scholarship on Indigenous identity ill-equipped to grapple with the consequences of the genomic era. Drawing on multidisciplinary expertise, we will examine biological and social influences on Indigeneity in narratives of self- presentation and in two fields currently being transformed by genomics: ancestry testing and repatriation. You can read The Conversation articles related to this project here and here.

Epigenetics and Indigenous Australia (ARC Discovery Project)
This project aims to investigate how epigenetics is being received by Indigenous Australians, and to identify the potential risks and opportunities that narratives of biosocial damage entail. Epigenetics is a rapidly evolving science concerned with how life experiences, such as trauma or stress, can modify DNA and be passed on to descendants. This project will offer an understanding of the relationships between Indigenous health and epigenetics that will help Indigenous researchers and policymakers make well-informed decisions about the application of this new science. The research will make a significant contribution to understanding how the interplay of biology, race, and society unfold at the intersection of different knowledge systems and at the forefront of technological progress. You can read a Discover Society blog piece on this issue here.


Filter by


Indigenous Knowledge in a Postgenomic Landscape: The Politics of Epigenetic Hope and Reparation in Australia

M Warin, E Kowal, M Meloni

(2020), Vol. 45, pp. 87-111, Science Technology and Human Values, London, Eng., C1


To be or not to be indigenous? Understanding the rise of australia's indigenous population since 1971

E Watt, E Kowal

(2019), Vol. 42, pp. 63-82, Ethnic and Racial Studies, London, Eng., C1


What's at stake? Determining indigeneity in the era of DIY DNA

E Watt, E Kowal

(2019), Vol. 38, pp. 142-164, New Genetics and Society, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Race in a genome: Long read sequencing, ethnicity-specific reference genomes and the shifting horizon of race

E Kowal, B Llamas

(2019), Vol. 97, pp. 91-106, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Rome, Italy, C1


Spencer's double: the decolonial afterlife of a postcolonial museum prop

E Kowal

(2019), Vol. 4, pp. 55-77, BJHS Themes, Cambridge, Eng., C1


How collections end: objects, meaning and loss in laboratories and museums

B Jardine, Emma Kowal, J Bangham

(2019), Vol. 4, pp. 1-27, BJHS Themes, Cambridge, Eng., C1


Whiteness and national identity: teacher discourses in Australian primary schools

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

(2018), Vol. 21, pp. 132-147, Race ethnicity and education, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Anthropology, indigeneity, and the epigenome: special section on medical anthropology

E Kowal, M Warin

(2018), Vol. 120, pp. 822-825, American anthropologist, [Arlington, Va.], C1


What is race in Australia?

E Kowal, E Watt

(2018), Vol. 96, pp. 229-237, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Rome, Italy, C1


Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia

R Tobler, A Rohrlach, J Soubrier, P Bover, B Llamas, J Tuke, N Bean, A Abdullah-Highfold, S Agius, A O'Donoghue, I O'Loughlin, P Sutton, F Zilio, K Walshe, A Williams, C Turney, M Williams, S Richards, R Mitchell, E Kowal, J Stephen, L Williams, W Haak, A Cooper

(2017), Vol. 544, pp. 180-184, Nature, London, Eng., C1


Descent, classification and indigeneity in Australia

E Kowal

(2017), pp. 19-35, Mixed race identities in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Abingdon, Eng., B1


Introduction: the politics of low temperature

J Radin, E Kowal

(2017), pp. 3-25, Cryopolitics: frozen life in a melting world, Cambridge, Mass., B1


Indigeneity and the refusal of whiteness

E Kowal, Y Paradies

(2017), Vol. 20, pp. 101-117, Postcolonial studies, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Indigenous genetics and rare diseases: harmony, diversity and equity

G Baynam, C Molster, A Bauskis, E Kowal, R Savarirayan, M Kelaher, S Easteal, L Massey, G Garvey, J Goldblatt, N Pachter, T Weeramanthri, H Dawkins

(2017), Vol. 1031, pp. 511-520, Rare diseases epidemiology: update and overview, Cham, Switzerland, 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, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Collections d'chantillons biologiques autochtones et cryopolitique de la vie congele

E Kowal, J Radin

(2016), pp. 1-14, 2014 : Proceedings of the 2014 Living Beings and Artifacts International Symposium, Paris, France, E1


Indigenous genomics

E Kowal, S Easteal, M Gooda

(2016), Vol. 37, pp. 18-20, Australasian science, Hawksburn, Vic., 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, Berlin, Germany, 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, E Kowal

(2015), Vol. 26, pp. 94-111, Australian Journal of Anthropology, C1-1


Trapped in the gap: doing good in indigenous Australia

E Kowal

(2015), New York, N.Y., A1-1


All in the Blood

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, Washington, D.C., 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, Sydney, N.S.W., 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, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 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, Las Vegas, Nevada, 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: An International Journal, C1


Reflexive antiracism: A novel approach to diversity training

E Kowal, H Franklin, Y Paradies

(2013), Vol. 13, pp. 316-337, 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, London, England, 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, London, England, 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, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 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), Heidelberg, Germany, C1-1


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

E Kowal

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


Genetic research in indigenous health: Significant progress, substantial challenges

E Kowal

(2012), Vol. 197, pp. 19-20, Medical Journal of Australia, C1


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


Postcolonial friction: the Indigenous governance machine

E Kowal

(2011), pp. 136-150, Force, movement, intensity: the Newtonian imagination in the humanities and social sciences, Melbourne, Vic., B1


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


A postcolonial analysis of indigenous cultural awareness training for health workers

R Downing, E Kowal

(2011), Vol. 20, pp. 5-15, Health sociology review, Abingdon, Eng., C1


Putting Indigenous cultural training into nursing practice

R Downing, E Kowal

(2011), Vol. 37, pp. 10-20, Contemporary nurse, Abingdon, Eng., C1


The Newtonian fantasy and its 'social' other

G Hage, E Kowal

(2011), pp. 1-9, Force, movement, intensity: the Newtonian imagination in the humanities and social sciences, Melbourne, Vic., B1


Putting Indigenous cultural training into nursing practice

Rosie Downing, Emma Kowal

(2011), Vol. 37, pp. 10-20, Contemporary Nurse, C1


Is culture the problem or the solution? Outstation health and the politics of remoteness

E Kowal

(2010), pp. 179-193, Culture crisis: anthropology and politics in Aboriginal Australia, Sydney, N.S.W., B1


Enduring dilemmas of Indigenous health

E Kowal, Y Paradies

(2010), Vol. 192, pp. 599-600, Medical journal of Australia, Strawberry Hills, N.S.W., C1


Waiting for the baby

E Kowal

(2009), pp. 210-218, Waiting, Melbourne, Vic., B1


The politics of the gap: Indigenous Australians, liberal multiculturalism, and the end of the self-determination era

E Kowal

(2008), Vol. 110, pp. 338-348, American Anthropologist, London, Eng., C1


Ambivalent helpers and unhealthy choices: public health practitioners' narratives of Indigenous ill-health

E Kowal, Y Paradies

(2005), Vol. 60, pp. 1347-1357, Social science & medicine, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1-1


Funded Projects at Deakin

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: $43,296
  • 2016: $82,299
  • 2015: $48,101

Haunting Biology: Race, Science and Indigeneity in Australia

Prof Emma Kowal

ARC Fellowships - Future Fellowships

  • 2020: $54,995
  • 2019: $245,558
  • 2018: $240,979
  • 2017: $354,373

The politics of epigenetic hope and hype in Indigenous Australia

Prof Emma Kowal, A/Prof Maurizio Meloni, Asst/Prof Megan Warin

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2020: $49,846
  • 2019: $91,682

Development and Evaluation of the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics (SING).

Prof Emma Kowal

ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH)

  • 2019: $60,000

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