Susan Sered, PhD

Professor, Sociology

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Program Director, Crime & Justice Studies


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

Research Interests

  • Women and Crime
  • 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.


  • 2017 Repeal and Replace is a Women's Issue. Our Bodies Ourselves.
  • 2016 Pennsatucky's Teeth and the Persistence of Class. In Feminist Perspectives on Orange is the New Black: Thirteen Critical Essays. Pp. 128-139 in April Householder and Adrienne Trier-Bieniek (eds.). McFarland Press.
  • 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).
  • 2014 Be Careful About Sending Domestic Abusers to Jail. It Might Make them More Violent. Washington Post.
  • 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.
  • 2008 (with Amy Agigian) “Holistic Sickening: Breast Cancer and the Discursive Worlds of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners,” Sociology of Health and Illness 30(4): 616-631.
  • 2005 Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity, University of California Press.
  • 2005 (co-editor, with Linda Barnes) Religion and Healing in America (Oxford University Press).
  • 2000 What Makes Women Sick?: Militarism, Maternity and Modesty in Israeli Society, University Press of New England.
  • 1999 Women of the Sacred Groves: Divine Priestesses of Okinawa, Oxford University Press.
  • 1994 Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women, Oxford University Press.
  • 1992 Women as Ritual Experts: The Religious Lives of Elderly Jewish Women in Jerusalem, Oxford University Press.

Oral Presentations

  • " 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.
  • “Disrupted Lives, Fragmented Care: Illness Experiences of Criminalized Women,” National Women’s Studies Association, June 2008.
  • “Women and Health Care Reform in Massachusetts,” national webcast sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center, May 2008.
  • “The Death Spiral: How ‘The Uninsured’ Became an American Caste,” Boston University School of Public Health, September 2005.
  • “Women’s Health Briefing,” Kaiser Foundation briefing for policy makers and congressional aids, Washington DC, July 2005

Professional Activities

  • Book Series Editor, ‘Religion, Health, and Healing Series,’ Praeger Publishers
  • Consultant on health policy for Our Bodies Ourselves
  • Editorial board member: Social Issues in Israel
  • Program co-chair of the “Ethnographic Studies of Religion” section for XXth
  • Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (2010)
  • Program chair, “Raising Women’s Voices for Health Care,” May 2008

Other Activities

  • Academic advisor to various women’s interfaith initiatives, including “Women, Tradition and Change: A Multi-Faith Conference on Contemporary American Religious Practice,” May 2000, Boston
  • Chairperson and then member of the Board of the Association for the Advancement of Women's Health in Israel
  • Consultant on health care systems and on holistic healing for Our Bodies Ourselves

Recent Grant Support

  • Common 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
  • Kaiser Family Foundation, Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, for research on the near elderly and on the health care safety net, 2004
  • Commonwealth Fund, for research on the uninsured, 2004
  • Germeshausen Foundation, for ‘Women Healing Women’ project on women as healers, 2002
  • Social Science Research Council, Religion and Immigration Program for study of religion, health, and gender in the U.S. Okinawan diaspora, 2000
  • 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 current 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.

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Courses Taught

  • Crime and Mental Illness
  • Women and Crime
  • Global Health and Healing
  • Death and Dying
  • Diversity and Women’s Health
  • Religion in Popular Culture
  • Aging and Society
  • Women in the United States Health Care System
  • United States Health Care Landscape