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About Susan Brownell

Dr. Brownell is an internationally recognized expert on Chinese sports, Olympic games, and World’s Fairs. She won UMSL’s Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creativity in 2015. She has done fieldwork in China, primarily in Beijing and Shanghai. In 2007-08, she was a Fulbright senior researcher at the Beijing Sport University, doing research on the Beijing Olympic Games.  She also did research at the Olympics in Athens, Rio, and PyeongChang. At UMSL, she teaches The Body in Culture; Medicine in Culture and History; Senior Seminar; and courses about China, East Asia, and health and medicine.

Dr. Brownell grew up in Virginia. She traces her interest in China back to the stories told by her grandmother whose father was governor of Mississippi, a civil rights proponent, and lawyer for the Mississippi Chinese Association in the 1910s and 20s. Her love of anthropology began as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia where she took Victor Turner's famous seminar in which the participants reenacted different rituals from around the world.

She was also a nationally-ranked track and field athlete in the U.S. before she joined the track team at Beijing University in 1985-86 while she was there for a year of Chinese language studies. She represented Beijing in the 1986 Chinese National College Games and set a national record in the heptathlon. In 1987-88, she returned to the Beijing Sport University for a year of dissertation research.


August 1994 - Present Professor, University of Missouri-St. Louis Department of Anthropology and Archaeology


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Honors and Awards

  • Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research & Creativity


1982 - 1990 PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara ‐ Cultural Anthropology
1978 - 1982 BA, University of Virginia ‐ Anthropology

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Faculty Expertise (1)

Research Works (23)

Books & Book Contributions (8)