Georgiann Davis

Associate Professor


PhD, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago (2011)

Research Interests

Sociology of Health and Medicine, Gender, Inequality

Sociology of the Body, Intersectionality

Research Statement:

My intellectual passion is nestled around the social construction of medical knowledge, specifically how diagnoses are defined and experienced through a gendered framework by medical professionals, patients, and their families. Given such, my research is centered on theoretical questions, concepts, and intellectual concerns that bridge medical discourse with gender scholarship. In my first book, Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis, I looked at how intersex is experienced in contemporary U.S. society, while also telling the story of how “intersex” became a “disorder of sex development.” I identify as an unapologetic scholar-activist and find myself intrigued by all sides of the hospital bed, including the social construction of medical diagnoses and the implications of such diagnoses, as well as patterns of medical specialization.



Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis

Georgiann Davis

Winner, 2017  Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association, Section on Sex and Gender

Winner, 2016 Donald Light Award for the Applied or Public Practice of Medical Sociology from the American Sociological Association, Section on Medical Sociology

In Contesting Intersex, Davis draws on interviews with intersex people, their parents, and medical experts to explore the oft-questioned views on intersex in medical and activist communities, as well as the evolution of thought in regards to intersex visibility and transparency. She finds that framing intersex as an abnormality is harmful and can alter the course of one’s life. In fact, controversy over this framing continues, as intersex has been renamed a ‘disorder of sex development’ throughout medicine. This happened, she suggests, as a means for doctors to reassert their authority over the intersex body in the face of increasing intersex activism in the 1990s and feminist critiques of intersex medical treatment. Davis argues the renaming of ‘intersex’ as a ‘disorder of sex development’ is strong evidence that the intersex diagnosis is dubious. Within the intersex community, though, disorder of sex development terminology is hotly disputed; some prefer not to use a term which pathologizes their bodies, while others prefer to think of intersex in scientific terms. Although terminology is currently a source of tension within the movement, Davis hopes intersex activists and their allies can come together to improve the lives of intersex people, their families, and future generations. However, for this to happen, the intersex diagnosis, as well as sex, gender, and sexuality, needs to be understood as socially constructed phenomena. A personal journey into medical and social activism, Contesting Intersex presents a unique perspective on how medical diagnoses can affect lives profoundly.

Available for purchase here.

Recent/Select Publications:

Davis, Georgiann and Torisha Khonach. 2020. “The Paradox of Positionality: Avoiding, Embracing, or Resisting Feminist Accountability,”Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society 9(2):101-113.

Davis, Georgiann, Jodie Dewey, and Erin L. Murphy. 2016. “Giving Sex: Deconstructing Intersex and Trans Medicalization Practices,”Gender & Society 30(3):490-514.

Risman, Barbara J. and Georgiann Davis. 2013. “From Sex Roles to Gender Structure,”Current Sociology. 61(5-6):733-755.

Karkazis, Katrina, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Georgiann Davis, and Silvia Camporesi. 2012. “Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes,”The American Journal of Bioethics 12(7):3-16.


Sociological Data Analysis 

Sociology of Gender

Sociology of the Body