Susan Birrell

2018 Awardee

  • Professor of American Studies & Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies

Susan Birrell is a Professor in the Department of American Studies and the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. She has a BA in English from St. Lawrence University and an MA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts, which was the first graduate program in sport studies in the US. She joined the American Studies faculty after many years in the UI Department of Health and Sport Studies.

Birrell works from a critical cultural studies perspective to study sport and leisure. Her early work was centered on feminist analyses of sport, including articles that called for more serious scholarly attention to this neglected aspect of a girls' and women's experiences.

She is an interdisciplinary scholar who focuses on sport from a critical cultural studies perspective. She was an early proponent of applying feminist analyses to the study of sport, authoring numerous articles on the topic and co-editing the anthology Women, Sport and Culture, with C.L. Cole (1994). Her early work was centered on feminist analyses of sport, including articles that called for more serious scholarly attention to this neglected aspect of a girls' and women's experiences. 

She has also examined the meanings and contradictions in the male to constructed female transformation of tennis player Richard Raskind/Renee Richards in an article co-authored with Cheryl Cole, "Double Fault: Renee Richards and the Construction and Naturalization of Difference."

Her more recent work has focused on the cultural power of public representations of sport. With Mary McDonald, she co-edited a collection of essays addressing that topic, Reading Sport: Essays on Power and Representation (2000). She is currently working on a book about Mt Everest that uses critical narrative analysis to investigate the cultural production of the history of climbing the mountain, and she has also begun to publish in her most recent area of interest, sport and film, particularly women and sport films.