Dr Sonja Erikainen

Dr Sonja Erikainen


I completed my PhD here at the University of Leeds in 2017, after doing an MSc in gender studies at the LSE and an undergraduate degree in philosophy and sociology at the University of Glasgow. My PhD research explored the social and medical history of the female category in international competitive sports, focusing on so-called gender verification regulations that have been aimed at ensuring via scientific and biomedical sex tests that athletes competing in women's sports are, indeed, females.

Following the completion of my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where my research focused on patienthood and participation in the digital era. In 2018, I was awarded an ESRC research fellowship entitled "sex binaries, performance enhancement and elite sport," and I returned to the University of Leeds to undertake research that both builds on and expands my PhD work.    

Research interests

My research is focused on two themes that cluster around, firstly, theoretical, conceptual and empirical approaches to sex difference and the (female) body, and non-binary gender identities and bodies. Secondly, I am interested in exploring conceptual and methodological approaches to research engagement and participatory research in biomedicine.    

My PhD and current ESRC funded research explore how and why scientific ideas and methods have become intertwined with social and cultural constructions of womanhood to define which bodies do and which do not count as "female" in sports. I am particularly interested in understanding how the female / male sex binary is produced via social and medical practices that intersect with politics around gender, sexuality, race, and class. Relatedly, my work explores the participation of intersex and trans* women and men in sports as well as the emergence of non-binary gender identities and the implications of this for sports that are organised along the lines of binary and mutually exclusive sex and gender categories of participation.

More recently, I have also been interested in conceptualisations and practices of research engagement and / or engaged research in biomedicine, and I have been working to (re)think biomedical research as a participatory or co-produced endeavour with stakeholders and research participants. This interest derives from my work on the Wellcome Trust funded "patienthood and participation in the digital era" project at the University of Edinburgh (PI Sarah Chan) and I am working to translate this into my current work on sex difference, gender and sports.     

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Sociology
  • MSc Gender
  • MA (hons) Philosophy and Sociology

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Health, Technologies and Social Practice
  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies