Dr Mair Underwood


School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Project Manager

School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 52963


Mair Underwood is an anthropologist in the School of Social Science who specialises in bodies. In particular she explores how body modifications (such as tattoo or bodybuilding) are used to create, reflect and disrupt social boundaries such as those of gender and class. She is especially interested in the social lives of image and performance enhancing drugs: how they acquire meaning through social interactions and how they alter social interactions.

She also has an interest in assessment practice and has conducted research into assessment techniques that promote student engagement and academic integrity and compiled them into a searchable database called the UQ Assessment Ideas Factory

Mair is passionate about community engagement and engages with the community through her YouTube profile and podcasts such as this one with VPA Australia https://www.vpa.com.au/podcast

Mair Underwood coordinates two courses:

SOSC2190 Human Bodies, Culture and Society

SOCY1060 Gender, Sexuality and Society: An Introduction

Research Interests

  • bodybuilding
    I am currently conducting participant observation amongst recreational (i.e. non-competitive) bodybuilders.
  • tattoo
    I am interested in how tattoo is used to construct and negotiate social boundaries such as gender and class.
  • body
    I am interested in the social and cultural aspects of human bodies.
  • body modification
    I am particularly interested in the various ways that people modify their bodies such as tattoo, bodybuilding, cosmetic procedures, weight loss or gain, and genital surgeries.
  • online ethnography
    I am currently conducting an online ethnography of recreational bodybuilders.

Research Impacts

Mair Underwood has written numerous academic publications which have been cited by world experts. She prioritises community engagement featuring in the media regularly, and participating in panel discussions for varied audiences.

Mair Underwood has produced 15 papers and two book chapters including two sole aiuthor and 4 first author papers. Fifty per cent of these papers are in ERA ranked A or A* journals and over 50% of these journals have impact factors of 2 or higher. Since her PhD she has presented at three national and two international conferences (one of the latter by invitation to Cambridge with all expenses paid by the conference). Her journal publications have been cited 96 times (Google Scholar) with an average of 6.8 citations per paper. Despite her short research career her h-index is 5 (Google Scholar). Her recognition as a body expert by the community has led to dozens of print, radio and television features, as well as invites to speak to various audiences outside of academia.


  • Bachelor of Arts, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


View all Supervision


Book Chapter

  • Underwood, Mair (2015). Some thoughts on tattoo and art. In A permanent mark: the impact of tattoo culture on contemporary art (pp. 22-31) Townsville, QLD, Australia: Gallery Services, Townsville City Council.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor