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Kellie Owens (Ph.D. 2017)

  • DISSERTATION TITLE: Too Much of a Good Thing?: Risk Perception and Practice Variation in Contemporary American Childbirth

Area(s) of Interest

Sociology of biomedicine, health, and illness; Sociology of science and technology, Sociology of gender and reproduction


Kellie’s research examines changing risk management philosophies and practices in medicine, with a focus on American obstetrics. In particular, she is interested in how medical providers are reacting to data suggesting that some commonly-used technologies and procedures are not improving health outcomes and may be leading to overtreatment. Her dissertation project, based on in-depth interviews and observation, is a comparative analysis of the risk perceptions and management styles of American birth providers in five U.S. cities. She demonstrates how risk countercultures in childbirth complicate the common biomedical narrative suggesting that health risks are best managed through increased monitoring and intervention.

Kellie was a Research Fellow in the Science in Human Culture Program and the Medical Ethics and Humanities Program at Northwestern, and a Visiting Research Fellow with the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at Harvard. She is currently at Postdoctoral Fellow in Advanced Biomedical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Key Publications

Owens, Kellie. 2017. “Too Much of a Good Thing?: American Childbirth, Intentional Ignorance, and the Boundaries of Responsible Knowledge.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 42(5): 848-871.

  • Winner: Hacker-Mullins Graduate Student Paper Prize; Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association
  • Winner: Nicholas C. Mullins Graduate Student Paper Prize; Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)
  • Winner of the David Hakkan Graduate Student Paper Prize, Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing, American Anthropological Association

Owens, Kellie. 2016. “’Colorblind Science?’ The Perceived Importance of Racial Diversity in Science Research.” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 8(1): 3-12.

Owens, Kellie. 2015. “Boundary Objects in Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Christian Science vs. Acupuncture.” Social Science and Medicine 128: 18-24.

  • Winner: Robert F. Winch Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Student 2nd Year Paper, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University

Courses Taught

Sociology of Health, Biomedicine, Culture and Society
The Rise and Implications of Evidence-Based Medicine
Graduate Seminar on College Teaching

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