Location: Bowdoin / Susan E. Bell


Susan Bell

A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences

Contact Information

Sociology And Anthropology
315 Adams Hall

Current teaching schedule available on the public course finder.

Susan Bell - Bowdoin College

Mailing Address:
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Bowdoin College, 7000 College Station
Brunswick, ME 04011-8470 

The first A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences, Susan E. Bell joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1983. Her specialty is the sociology of health and illness, in which she investigates the experience of illness, women's health, and visual and performative representations of the politics of cancer, medicine, and women's bodies. Currently, she is exploring the global flow of biomedical knowledge and spatial permeability by listening to and analyzing stories constructed in interactions between immigrant patient populations and staff in a U.S. hospital outpatient clinic.


  • Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Sociology, Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • PhD, Sociology, Brandeis University
  • M.A., Sociology, Brandeis University
  • History of Ideas, Brandeis University
  • B.A., Philosophy, Haverford College

Susan E. Bell and Anne E. Figert, eds., Reimagining (Bio)Medicalization, Pharmaceuticals and Genetics: Old Critiques and New Engagements Routledge, 2015Susan E. Bell and Anne E. Figert, eds., Reimagining (Bio)Medicalization, Pharmaceuticals and Genetics: Old Critiques and New Engagements Routledge, 2015

Susan E. Bell, "Disrupting Scholarship." Pp. 119-140 in Anita Garey, Rosanna Hertz and Margaret Nelson, eds., Open to Disruption: Time and Craft in the Practice of Slow Sociology Vanderbilt University Press, 2014  PDFPDF»

Susan E. Bell, “Seeing Narratives.” Pp. 142-158 in Molly Andrews, Corrine Squire and Maria Tamboukou, eds., Doing Narrative Research, second edition. London: Sage Publications, Ltd., 2013 PDFPDF»

Susan E. Bell and Anne E. Figert, "Medicalization and Pharmaceuticalization at the Intersections: Looking Backward, Sideways and Forward."  Social Science and Medicine, 75 (5): 775-783, 2012. PDFPDF»
Mary Ellen Bell and Susan E. Bell, "What to Do with All this 'Stuff': Memory, Family, and Material Objects." Storytelling, Self, Society, 8(2): 63 - 84, 2012. PDFPDF»

Inventory of Stuff
Photo credit: Sarah E. Sutter
click image to enlarge
Photo Credit: Sarah E. Sutter 

DES Daughters Embodied Knowledge and the Transformation of Women's Health Politics

DES Daughters
Embodied Knowledge and the Transformation of Women's Health Politics
, Temple University Press, 2009
DES Daughters information, resources, and reviews site»

“Claiming justice: knowing mental illness in the public art of Anna Schuleit’s ‘Habeas Corpus’ and ‘Bloom’,” special number of health 15:3, 2011 (published online Feb. 18, 2011) PDFPDF»

Guest Editor with Alan Radley, “Another Way of Knowing: Art, Disease, and Illness Experience,” special  number of health, 15:3, 2011

“Gender and the medicalization of health care,” with Anne E. Figert. Pp. 107-122 in Ellen Kuhlmann and Ellen Annandale, eds. Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Healthcare, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. PDFPDF»

“Visual methods for collecting and analyzing data.” Pp. 513-535 in Ivy Lynn Bourgeault, Raymond DeVries, and Robert Dingwall, eds., The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Health Research. Sage Publications, 2010. PDFPDF»

"Artworks, collective experience, and claims for social justice: the case of women living with breast cancer," with Alan Radley. Sociology of Health & Illness 29(3):366-390, 2007
Abstract | Full Text HTML

Tattoo, Martha Hall, 1998.
photo credit
click image to enlarge

"Living with breast cancer in text and image: Making art to make sense." Qualitative Research in Psychology, special issue on "embodiment" 3(1):31-44, 2006.
Abstract » | PDFPDF»

identity"Becoming a mother after DES: Intensive mothering in spite of it all." Pp. 233-252 in Anna De Fina, Deborah Schiffrin, and Michael Bamberg, eds. Discourse and Identity.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

"Vaginal politics: Tensions and possibilities in The Vagina Monologues," with Susan M. Reverby, Women's Studies International Forum, 28:430-444, 2005. Click here for a link to V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.
SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDFPDF»

synthetic planet"Intensive performances of mothering: A sociological perspective," Qualitative Research 4(1):45-75, 2004
Abstract » | PDFPDF»

"Sexual synthetics: Women, science, and microbicides," in Monica Casper, ed., Synthetic Planet: Chemical Politics and the Hazards of Modern Life, Routledge, 2003

"Photo images: Jo Spence's narratives of living with illness," Health 6(1):5-30, 2002. Click here to view Jo Spence's photographs.
Abstract » | PDFPDF»

"Experiencing illness in/and narrative," in Chloe Bird, Peter Conrad, Allen Fremont, and Sol Levine, eds., Handbook of Medical Sociology, fifth edition, Prentice-Hall, 2000

our bodies ourselves"Narratives and lives: Women's health politics and the diagnosis of cancer for DES daughters," Narrative Inquiry 9(2):347-389, 1999

"Birth control," with Lauren Wise (Bowdoin class of '96) and with the assistance of Judith Norsigian and Susannah Cooper-Doyle, in Boston Women's Health Book Collective, eds., Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century, Simon and Schuster, 1998

"Gendered medical science:  Producing a drug for women."  Feminist Studies, 21(3):469-500, 1995.

"Translating science to the people: Updating The New Our Bodies, Ourselves." Women's Studies International Forum, 17(1): 9-18, 1994.


Photo Credit:
Tattoo, Martha Hall, 1998.
Photograph by Dennis Griggs. Courtesy of Alan Hall.
From the collections of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College

Editorial Boards

  • Editorial Adviser, Sociology of Health and Illness, 2004-present
  • Editorial Board, Health, 2003-present
  • Editorial Board, Qualitative Sociology, 1992-2004
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1990-1992
  • Editorial Board, Women and Health, 1984-1987


Maine Humanities Council

  • Faculty, Humanities at the Heart of Health Care Summer Institute (for the Maine Humanities Council, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities), University of New England, Portland, ME 2002; Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, 2004. Guest lecture, "The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: Race, Class, and Public Health," at the Heart of Health Care Summer Institute, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, 2006
  • Facilitator/Scholar, Maine Humanities Council, "Literature and Medicine" monthly seminar, Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine, 2007, 2008, January-May 2009; January-May 2010; January-May 2011
  • Facilitator/Scholar, Maine Humanities Council, "Literature and Medicine" monthly seminar, Frannie Peabody Center, Portland, Maine, 2004; 2005
  • Facilitator/Scholar, Maine Humanities Council/National Endowment for the Humanities "Literature and Medicine" monthly seminar, Maine General Medical Center, Augusta, Maine, 2000; 2001; 2002

Introduction, for a screening of A Healthy Baby Girl by Judith Helfand during the film series, Linking Environment, Healing and Creativity at the National Museum of Women and the Arts, Washington, DC July 2011Arts

  • Introduction, for a screening of  A Healthy Baby Girl by Judith Helfand during the film series, Linking Environment, Healing and Creativity at the National Museum of Women and the Arts, Washington, DC July 2011
  • Curator, “Constructions of the Body,” Becker Gallery, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, March 4 – April 26, 2008
  • Living with Breast Cancer: Martha Hall's Texts, Images, and Collaborative Productions," opening talk for the exhibition "Holding In, Holding On Artist's Books by Martha A. Hall," Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, Bowdoin College, February 2004
  • "Performing Mothers: Paintings by Anne Harris," gallery talk, Bowdoin College, February 2003
  • Guest Curator with Alison Ferris, "Jo Spence: The Art of Transgression: Collaborative Projects 1982-1992," Bowdoin College, January 27 - March 1, 1998
  • "Jo Spence: Narratives In, Of, and Through Her Body," gallery talk, Bowdoin College, February 1998
Jo Spence 1992. Untitled, Photograph by Terry Dennett.
Courtesy Jo Spence Memorial Archive.
jo spence
click image to enlarge

Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Fellowship, “Permeable Hospitals, Transnational Communities: A Global Hospital Ethnography in Maine,” School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM Summer 2013 

Scholars Award, “Permeable Spaces and the Global Flow of Biomedical Knowledge,” National Science Foundation (Science, Technology, and Society Program), August 2012-July 2013