The recent rise in popularity of at-home genetic tests, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, has brought the discipline of genetics to everyone’s mailboxes and social media feeds. The increased visibility and use of genetic testing mirrors the rising demand for genetic counselors to help patients understand what complex genetic information means and how it influences them. This research employs Foucault’s theory of governmentality and its individualizing techniques to create the role of a genetic counselor as an example of Foucault’s concept of a “specific intellectual”. Using open-ended, ethnographic interviews, the research explores the principles of genetic counseling, including non-directiveness, through the perspectives of students and faculty at accredited master’s degree programs in the Midwest. The research reveals the importance of patient autonomy and patient-focused work within the occupation while revealing some interesting topics like the importance of family, uncertainty, and politics.


Tierney, Thomas


Sociology and Anthropology




Genetic counseling, genetics, genes, non-directiveness, governmentality, specific intellectual, qualitative, interviews

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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