Kelly E. Happe

Kelly HappeCreative Research Medal 2019

Kelly E. Happe, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Institute for Women’s Studies, blends the insights of rhetorical research and feminist science studies to address genomic science. She makes a strong case that it is improbable for any science involved with race, gender and genomics to avoid re-inscribing problematic historical ideas and social norms. In her groundbreaking 2013 book, The Material Gene: Gender, Race, and Heredity after the Human Genome Project, Happe explores the rhetorical effects of genomics on both medical and lay understandings of disease, gender, race and heredity. One of her primary concerns is the legacy of eugenics in today’s genomic research. Race, she writes, is being recast in subtle ways as deficiency or abnormality by the Human Genome Project and other genomic research efforts. Carrying this critique further, she argues that genomic research treats susceptibility to disease as something one inherits rather than acquires, and therefore genomic research problematizes black bodies.