Susan Brownell is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Brownell was a nationally-ranked track and field athlete (heptathlon) 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 was selected to represent Beijing in the 1986 Chinese National College Games, where she set a national record in the heptathlon and was on two silver-medal relay teams. Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic (1995) is based on her experiences as a college track and field athlete, and is the first book on Chinese sports based on fieldwork by a Westerner. In addition, she has co-authored (with Niko Besnier and Thomas F. Carter) The Anthropology of Sport: Bodies, Borders, Biopolitics (2017) and solo-authored Beijing's Games: What the Olympics Mean to China (2008), and edited The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games: Sport, Race, and American Imperialism (2008), which won the North American Society for Sport History award for best anthology in 2009. She is co-editor, with Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, of Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader (2002).
From 2004 to 2007 she worked with He Zhenliang, China's member in the International Olympic Committee, and his wife Liang Lijuan to translate his biography, written by Liang. It was published in English as He Zhenliang and China's Olympic Dream (2007), and is available on Amazon. The book launching ceremony was held in the Great Hall of the People. As the translator, Brownell delivered a short speech in both English and Chinese. The Chinese version of the speech was published in the People's Daily (人民日报).
From 2000 to 2008 she was a member of the Postgraduate Grant Selection Committee of the International Olympic Committee.
In the year leading up to the Beijing Olympics, she was a Fulbright Senior Researcher affiliated with the Beijing Sport University. Along with her colleagues she was a member of the team of academic experts that worked with the Beijing municipal government to design the Olympic educational programs in Beijing schools and universities. As the only non-Chinese expert on Chinese sports with over two decades of experience in China, she was interviewed by 100 journalists from over 20 countries. She also was an expert commentator for China Central Television during the Olympics.
In association with the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, she was a member of the academic experts team working on the forums organized by the Expo Coordinating Bureau. She translated into English the Shanghai Declaration, a document advocating sustainable urban development that was read out at the closing of the Expo by the Vice Mayor of Shanghai, in the name of the 246 participating nations and organizations. She was the only non-Chinese member of the academic experts teams for the Olympics and Expo, and the bid panel for the national image ad.
She was a member of the Advisory Council of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2012-2016), the premier granting agency for the discipline worldwide.
In addition to her scholarly pursuits, she enjoys figure skating. She is a past president of the St. Louis Skating Club, and was a member of the organizing committee for the 2006 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Louis.