Susan Sered, PhD

Professor, Sociology & Criminal Justice

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  • PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • MA, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • BA, University of Chicago

Research Interests

  • Women and the Criminal Justice System
  • Drugs and Society
  • Illness and Healing
  • Religion and Society
  • Women's Health
  • Healthcare Policy

Employment History

  • 2006-present
    Professor, Department of Sociology, Suffolk University
  • 2004-2006
    Senior Research Associate, Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, Suffolk University
  • 2000-2004
    Research Director, ‘Religion, Health, and Healing’ Research Initiative, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University
  • 1986‑2002
    Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar‑Ilan University, Israel.

Selected Recent Publications

  • 2021. Diminished Citizenship in the Era of Mass Criminalization. Punishment and Society.
  • 2021. Cooking Up Religion. Food, Culture and Society.
  • 2020 Bubbling Up: Promoting Communities of Care in the COVID Era.(blog post)
  • 2020 “I've Been Through Worse: Feeling 'Normal' in the Covid Era. (blog post)
  • 2019 The Opioid Crisis and the Infrastructure of Social Capital. International Journal of Drug Policy.
  • Sered, S. (2019). Women on the Institutional Circuit: A Nine-year, Qualitative Study. Journal of Correctional Health Care.
  • 2014 (with Maureen Norton-Hawk), Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs and the Limits of Personal Responsibility. University of California Press. (Received Honorable Mention: Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award of the Association for Humanist Sociology, 2015).
  • 2012 (with Maureen Norton-Hawk) “Criminalized Women and Twelve Step Programs: Addressing Violations of the Law with a Spiritual Cure,” Implicit Religion.
  • 2011 (with Maureen Norton-Hawk) “Mothering in the Shadow of the United States Correctional System,” in Michelle Walks and Naomi McPherson, eds., Mothering: Anthropological Perspectives. Toronto, Ontario: Demeter Press. Pp. 293-306.
  • 2011 (with Maureen Norton-Hawk) “Gender Overdetermination and Resistance: The Case of Criminalized Women,” Feminist Theory 12 (3): 317-333.
  • 2011 (with Maureen Norton-Hawk) “Whose Higher Power: Criminalized Women Confront the Twelve Steps,” Feminist Criminology 6 (4): 308-322.
  • 2011 (with Marilyn Delle Donne Proulx) “Lessons for Women's Health from the Massachusetts Reform: Affordability, Transitions and Choice,” Women’s Health Issues 21(1): 1-5.

Selected Recent Presentations

  • Sered, Susan, Anthropology and Technology, "Women, Food and (Dis)empowerment," Israel Anthropology Association, Beer Sheva, Israel. (May 26, 2019).
  • Sered, Susan, Eating Religiously: Food and Faith in the 21st Century, "Cooking Religiously, or Cooking up Religion," Israel Science Foundation, Beer Sheva, Israel. (May 23, 2019).
  • Sered, Susan, "Social Capital and the Opioid Crisis," Rotary Club, Weymouth, MA. (April 1, 2019).
  • Sered, Susan, Community Approaches to Addiction, "How Opioid Abuse Took Hold in Weymouth," South Shore Democratic Caucus, Weymouth High School. (February 27, 2019).
  • Sered, Susan, Charles River Regional Opioid Task Force, "Sociological Approaches to Understanding the Opioid Crisis," Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Newton Wellesley Hospital. (August 29, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, Middlesex County Opioid Task Force, "Causes and Trajectories of Substance Abuse," Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Lowell General Hospital. (July 13, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, Middlesex County Opioid Task Force, "Pain, Gender and the Opioid Crisis," Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Lawrence Hospital, Medford. (May 24, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, Internal Medicine / Social Justice Residents Group, "Women of Can't Catch a Break: How Can Doctors Contribute," MGH, Cambridge. (May 9, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, Graduate Seminar on Sociology of Prisoner Reentry, "Q and A regarding "Can't Catch a Break"," Ohio University. (April 10, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, Addiction Medicine Center, "Can't Catch a Break: Women Dealing with Jail, Drugs, Rehab and the Streets," Boston Medical Center. (February 1, 2018).
  • Sered, Susan, "The Institutional Circuit," Mass General Hospital, Charlestown, MA. (November 9, 2017).
  • Sered, Susan, Correctional Health Group, "Medicalization and Criminalization," University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA. (November 8, 2017).
  • " The Social Context of Breast Cancer," Silent Spring Institute, April 2017.
  • "Gender and Criminalization," University of Guam, July 2016.
  • "Social Capital and Cultural Capital: How Faith Communities Can Help Marginalized Women," Church of Our Savior, Arlington, MA, April 2015.
  • "Incarceration by Any Other Name: The Unholy Alliance of Religion, Therapeutic Culture and the State," UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, February 2015.
  • "A Sociological Perspective on Drugs and Drug Users," University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, March 2012.
  • “Where are They Now: Massachusetts’ Women Post-Incarceration,”presented at the Massachusetts State House (event sponsored by Representative Kay Khan), July 18, 2011.
  • “Criminalized Women, Health and Human Rights,” presented at IBIS Reproductive Health, May 2010.
  • “Mothering in the Shadow of the United States Correctional System,” American Anthropological Association, November 2011.
  • “Whose Higher Power? Criminalized Women Confront the ‘Twelve Steps,’” International Association for the History of Religions XXth World Congress, August 2010.

 Professional Activities

  • Consultant on health policy for Our Bodies Ourselves
  • Consultant on women’s health issues for various community organizations

Selected Recent Grant Support

  • Commonwealth Fund, for the follow-up research on the uninsured, 2016
  • Suffolk University Summer Research Stipend, for research on barriers to health care for incarcerated women, 2017
  • Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, Senior Fellow, 2000 

Research Passions

Over the course of my career my research foci have transitioned from issues of gender and religion to issues of illness and health care. While these two intellectual clusters may sound somewhat far apart at first glance, it seems to me that all of the various phases of my work are tied together by my abiding concern with how individuals and groups interpret their corporeal experiences of suffering and how various powerful institutions endeavor to exert control over those experiences.

My recent research, undertaken together with Sociology Department colleague Professor Maureen Norton-Hawk, follows a group of women who had been incarcerated in Massachusetts. I have remained in touch with these women for five years in order to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how particular policies and program affect criminalized women, and how adult developmental processes unfold for women whose lives have been plagued by repeated trauma and deep suffering.

At this time I am reading, researching and writing about the “opioid epidemic” and the COVID pandemic. My work takes into account cultural, intersectional, economic and gendered patterns and concerns.

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Courses Taught

  • SOC-354-A Death and Dying
  • SOC-433-A Senior Seminar
  • CJU-305-A Crime and Mental Illness
  • SOC-254-A US Health Care Policy