Raewyn comes from a family linking the Melbourne professional bourgeoisie with rural settlers.  Her Irish, Scots and Welsh ancestors were part of the nineteenth-century British colonization of Aboriginal lands in south-eastern Australia.  Born in 1944, Raewyn grew up during the Cold War, mainly in Sydney, where she went to Dee Why Public School, then Manly and North Sydney High Schools. Raewyn took a BA Hons degree at University of Melbourne and a PhD at the University of Sydney.  She was active in the student movement and New Left of the 1960s, and then became a university teacher and researcher. 

Raewyn's partner, Pam Benton, was an activist in the women's movement, a psychologist, a social researcher, a writer, and a public servant.  Pam was one of the founders of the Older Women's Network in Australia, shared in setting up the first women's health centre in South Australia, and helped develop Equal Opportunity policy machinery in New South Wales. A collection of her writing was published as Kept on Dancing.  Pam died in 1997 after a long struggle with cancer.  Pam and Raewyn have one daughter, Kylie Benton-Connell.

Raewyn became Professor of Sociology (foundation chair) at Macquarie University in 1976, launching a new department that tried to embody academic democracy as well as new agendas for sociology.  In the early 1990s she moved to the University of California at Santa Cruz, then returned to a chair of education at the University of Sydney, and was later appointed University Professor. She is now Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney, and a Life Member of the National Tertiary Education Union.

As a sociologist, Raewyn became known for research on large-scale class dynamics (Ruling Class, Ruling Culture, 1977; Class Structure in Australian History, 1980), and on how class and gender hierarchies are made and re-made in the everyday life of schools (Making the Difference, 1982; Teachers’ Work, 1985).  She developed a social theory of gender relations (Gender and Power, 1987; Gender: in World Perspective, 2002/2015), which emphasised that gender is a large-scale and dynamic social structure not just a matter of personal identity.  In applied fields she has worked on poverty and education (Schools and Social Justice, 1993), sexuality and AIDS prevention, and gender equity.

Raewyn is best known internationally for studies on masculinity. She was one of the founders of this research field and her book Masculinities (1995, 2005) is the best known in the field. The concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ has been particularly influential and has attracted much debate.  As well as doing some of the pioneering empirical work in this field, Raewyn has written extensively about its applications to education, health, and the reduction of violence.

Since the 1960s Raewyn has been concerned with the politics of intellectual life, gradually developing a sociology of intellectuals that focussed on the labour process of knowledge formation and circulation.  Based mainly in Australia, and travelling extensively since the 1980s, Raewyn developed a critique of the Northern bias of mainstream social science and the colonial structures of knowledge. Her book Southern Theory (2007) discusses intellectuals and social theories from the global periphery and explores paths towards knowledge democracy on a world scale.  More recently Raewyn has applied this approach to gender and masculinity, and to neoliberal politics and economics. 

Much of Raewyn’s research uses biographical (life-history) interviewing, but she has also published survey research, historical research, institutional analysis, and social theory. A collection of her later work, combining work from several research projects, is Confronting Equality (2011). In 2019 she published The Good University, an attempt to explain how universities work, what has happened to them under the corporate regime, and what alternatives there have been in the past and could be in the future.

Raewyn has a long involvement in the labour movement, as a member of the Australian Labor Party (until its turn to neoliberalism), and as a union member.  She has been involved in debates about labour movement strategy (Socialism & Labor, 1978), and was on the picket line in the 2013 strike at the University of Sydney. She has been involved in other political causes: the peace movement, feminist groups such as Sydney Action for Juárez, and support of public education.  As a teacher, Raewyn has emphasised student control of learning processes and collaborative approaches to knowledge.

More formally, Raewyn has been an advisor to United Nations initiatives on gender equality and peacemaking.  She has been an active member of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) and was President of its predecessor SAANZ.  In 2010 TASA established the Raewyn Connell Prize, awarded every two years, for the best first book in Australian sociology. 

Raewyn’s work has mainly circulated in academic contexts.  It has not had a broad impact on Australian public life, but has helped to shape thinking in some areas.  Her research and theorising has been widely used in research and teaching internationally (Google Scholar in 2020 counts about 98 000 citations of her publications).  Her writings have circulated in nineteen languages: see Translations of Raewyn's work

Raewyn is a transsexual woman, making a formal transition late in life.  Most of her earlier work was published under the gender-neutral name R. W. Connell. Her writing about transsexuality can be found in this blog. 

Raewyn retired from her University Chair in the University of Sydney on 31 July 2014.  A video of her official Last Lecture, "The Knowledge Industry and Counter-Power", can be seen on YouTube or on Vimeo.  She is continuing with intellectual and political work.
See also


Postal address
Prof. R. Connell
Education A35
University of Sydney
NSW 2006, Australia

University Professor, University of Sydney.
Professor of Education, University of Sydney.
Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Foundation Professor of Sociology, Macquarie University.
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Flinders University of South Australia.
Lecturer in Government, University of Sydney.
Commonwealth Postgraduate Research Student, University of Sydney.
Commonwealth Scholar and Trinity College Scholar, University of Melbourne.

Visiting Appointments

2003 (Aug)      
Overseas Research Fellow, National Research Foundation, South Africa.
1999 (April-June)
Marie-Jahoda Professor of Gender Studies, Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
Professor of Australian Studies, Harvard University.
1989 (Jan-May)
Visiting Professor, Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society, University of Southern California.
1988 (Oct)     
Visiting Scholar, A.E. Havens Center, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin - Madison.
1988 (Aug-Nov)
Honorary Visiting Scholar, Department of Sociology in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
1988 (July-Aug)
Visiting Professor, Department of Curriculum, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
Honorary Visiting Scholar, Department of Sociology of Education, London University Institute of Education.
Post-doctoral Fellow, Center for Social Organisation Studies, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago

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