Woman Connell, Raewyn (1944 - )

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Written by Lois Bryson, RMIT University/The University of Newcastle

Australia's most widely acclaimed sociologist Professor Raewyn Connell (born Sydney 1944) was, from very early in her career, recognised as a talented academic. Her work, which also straddles education, gender studies, political science and history, has made important contributions to the understanding of many areas of social life, though she is best known for her work on gender issues. Her writing is theoretically important and innovative and is focused, not only on achieving greater intellectual understanding, but also practical insights, focused on important day to day life issues. Her publishing career started at the age of twenty-three, and by 2000 she had been sole author of 7 books, joint author of 7, and solely or jointly written over 100 refereed-journal articles and 40 chapters for edited books. In the twenty-first century, her publication output became even greater and received even more extensive international, as well as local, acclaim. In 2007 she received the TASA Distinguished Services Award for her contribution to Australian Sociology. In the following year her book, Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science (which she commenced writing in 1995) was awarded TASA's Stephen Crook Prize, a ¬biennial award for the most outstanding sociological monograph of the previous two years. Her work on Masculinities (1997) has been recognised by an award from the American Sociological Society and led to an invitation to work with United Nations agencies to provide leadership on matters concerned with masculinity, violence and peace-making.

To understand Raewyn's academic leadership achievements, it is illuminating to know something of her background. Her father (WF Connell) was an Australian educationalist who, after holding academic positions at the University of Melbourne became Professor of Education at the University of Sydney from 1955 until his retirement in 1976. WF Connell was a highly regarded, much published social researcher so was well placed to model an academic career for his children.

After completing her Doctorate in the Department of Government at the University of Sydney, and a Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Chicago (1970), Connell had short academic appointments at Sydney and Flinders Universities. She was then appointed to the foundation Chair of Sociology at Macquarie University, in Sydney, the youngest Australian academic to hold a professorial position in sociology. She occupied this Chair for fifteen years then in 1996, following a brief appointment at the University of California (Santa Cruz), she was appointed Professor of Education at Sydney University (to the Chair her father had held). She held this position until 2004, when in recognition of her outstanding work, she was appointed to the lifetime position of University Professor of Sydney University. Since 1996 she has also held shorter visiting posts at the London University Institute of Education, University of Toronto (Canada), University of Wisconsin - Madison, University of Southern California, Harvard University (USA), Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany) and National Research Foundation, South Africa.

Much of her early writing and research was focused on social class and inequality, but she has since become best known for her extensive work on gender issues relating to girls, boys, women and men. In the mid-1990s she turned her attention to the weighty task of challenging what she identifies as the 'Northern' bias of virtually all sociological theory, from the early history of the discipline to the present.

Raewyn's capacity for original, insightful sociological analysis and her academic leadership have also been influenced by her gender circumstances. From birth she was identified by others, as 'male', even though from a very young age she knew her social assignment to the 'male' gender to be wrong. At the time, however transsexual issues were not widely discussed, and did not become so until late in the twentieth century, when the environment slowly became more open. Raewyn made public her gender identity after the death, in 1997 from cancer, of Pam Benton, her talented, much loved, highly supportive partner and the mother of their daughter. Making public her female identity occurred over time, involved some medical intervention with the final, formal declaration made in 2006, when she officially changed her name, from RW to Raewyn (RW) Connell.

By the end of the twentieth century, Connell had made an indelible mark on the sociological understanding of social issues and her world-wide influence continued to reach well beyond academia. By the end of the twentieth century she had already earned her place among the world's most eminent sociologists, for her contributions to sociological theory, issues relating to gender and her focus on the practical achievement of equality.

Published Resources


  • Connell, R. W., Which Way Is Up? Essays on Sex, Class and Culture, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1983, 278 pp. Details
  • Connell, R. W., Masculinities, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, New South Wales, 2005, 324 pp. Details
  • Connell, R. W., Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science, Cambridge Polity Press, Malden, United States of America, 2007, 271 pp. Details
  • Connell, R. W. and Gould, Florence, Politics of the Extreme Right: Warringah 1966, Sydney University Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 1967. Details
  • Connell, Raewyn, Gender and Power: Society, the Person, and Sexual Politics, Polity Press, Cambridge, England, 1987. Details
  • Connell, W. F.; Stroobant, R. E.; Sinclair, K. E.; Connell, R. W.; and Rogers, K., Twelve to Twenty: A Study of Teenagers in Sydney, Hicks Smith, Sydney, New South Wales, 1975. Details
  • Franzway, Suzanne; Court, Dianne and Connell, Raewyn, Staking a Claim: Feminism, Bureaucracy and the State, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1989. Details

Journal Articles

  • Connell, Raewyn, 'Supremacy and Subversion - Gender Struggles in Sport', Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, vol. 3, no. 3, November 2012, pp. 177 - 179. Details
  • Maharaj, Zarina, 'A Social Theory of Gender: Connell's 'Gender and Power'', Feminist Review, vol. 49, 1995, pp. 50 - 65. Details

Online Resources

See also