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Kempner, Joanna

Associate Professorkempner

Department of Sociology


Tel: 848-932-5876

Office: Davison Hall, 043


B.A. in Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, 1996

M.A. in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 2000

Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 2004

Research Interests

Sociology of medicine, science, gender, and the body.

Biographical Notes

Professor Kempner uses multiple methods to investigate science and health policy in a variety of areas, including pain medicine, pharmaceutical advertising practices, science and health policy, and “forbidden knowledge.” She is currently writing a book on the sociology of headache medicine that examines the gendered social values embedded in the way we talk about, understand, and make policies for people in pain. She has also written about the suppression of science, including articles on how political controversies generated by health research shape scientific research agendas. Prior to joining the department, Professor Kempner was a postdoctoral fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at the University of Michigan from 2004-2006. She was also a Research Associate at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University. Her research appears in peer-reviewed sociology and medical journals including Science, Social Science & Medicine and Gender & Society.

Click here to view CV of Professor Kempner.

Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

  • Honorable Mention, Star-Nelkin Paper Award. Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association, 2012
  • Principal Investigator, “Not Tonight: A Lifecycle Grant,” funded by RU FAIR ADVANCE, 2011-12
  • Faculty Fellow, Center for Cultural Analysis, “Evidence and Explanation in the Arts and Sciences” Rutgers University, 2009-10
  • Roberta G. Simmons Award for Outstanding Dissertation, Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association, 2006
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research, 2004-06
  • Principal Investigator, "The Politics of Sex Research: Assessing the Relationship between Political Controversy and Science," funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Grant, 2005
  • Principal Investigator, "Gendering Pain: A Cultural Analysis of Migraine and Cluster Headache," funded by a Otto and Gertrude K. Pollak Research Fellowship, 2003
  • Graduate Mentor, Beth and Richard Sackler Undergraduate Research Scholarship, 2003
  • University Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Sociology, 2003
  • Co-Investigator, “Forbidden Knowledge in Science,” Jon Merz, P.I., funded by the Greenwall Foundation, 2002-03
  • Teaching Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Sociology, 1998-02
  • Howard Hughes Science Institute Scholar, Pennsylvania State University, 1992

Selected Publications


Not Tonight: A Cultural Analysis of Headache (Book manuscript under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press)

Peer-reviewed articles:

  • Young, William B., Iris X. Tian, Jung E. Park, and Kempner, Joanna. (2013). "The Stigma of Migraine."  Public Library of Science One. 8(1). e54074.
  • Young, William B., Kempner, Joanna, Loder, Elizabeth W., Roberts, Jason, Segal, Judy, Solomon, Miriam, Cady, Roger, Janoff, Kaura, Sheeler, Robert, Robert, Teri, Yocum, Jennifer, Sheftell, Fred D. (2012) “Naming migraine and those who have it.” Headache. 52(2). 283-291.
  • Kempner, Joanna, Merz Jon F., Bosk Charles L (2011). “Forbidden knowledge: Public controversy and the production of nonknowledge.” Sociological Forum. 26(3). 475-500. Lead article.
  • Frickel, Scott, Gibbon, Sahra, Howard, Jeff, Ottinger, Gwen, Kempner, Joanna, Hess, David. (2010) “Undone science: Charting social movement and civil society challenges to research agenda setting.” Science, Technology and Human Values. 35(4). 444-473.
  • Kempner, Joanna (2008) “The chilling effect: How do researchers react to controversy?” Public Library of Science Medicine 5(11): e222.
  • Kempner, Joanna (2006) "Uncovering the man in medicine: Lessons learned from a case study of cluster headache." Gender & Society. 20(5): 632-656.
  • Kempner, Joanna (2006) "Gendering the migraine market: Do representations of illness matter?" Social Science & Medicine. 63(8): 1986-1997.
  • Kempner, Joanna. Perlis Clifford S, Merz Jon F (2005) "Forbidden knowledge." Science. vol. 307: 854.
  • Response to letters from Williamson OM, Fish, JM, and Wendl MC , "The Question of Forbidden Knowledge": Kempner, J, Perlis, CS, Merz, JF. Science, vol. 308, pp. 1549-1550.
Other publications:
  • Kempner, Joanna, Springer, Kristen. (2011) “The sociological promise of bridging mind, body, and society.” Rutgers Journal of Sociology: Mind, Body and Society. Vol. 1, no. 1, pp 6-9. (equal authorship)
  • Kempner, Joanna (2008) Book review of Labour in the Laboratory: Medical Laboratory Workers in the Maritimes by Peter L. Twohig. American Journal of Sociology, 2008 vol. 114, no. 2.
  • Kempner, Joanna (2003) “A sociologic perspective of migraine in women.” Migraine in Women. Eds. Elizabeth Loder and Dawn Marcus. BC Decker and Company: 165-173.

Courses Offered


  • Social Problems
  • Sociology of Medicine
  • Sociology of Body and Health


  • Sociology of Medicine
  • Sociology of the Body
  • Sociology of Health & Illness
  • Social Research Methods

Professional Affiliation

  • American Sociological Association
  • (Sections on Medical Sociology, the Body, Sex and Gender, and Science, Knowledge and Technology)
  • Sociologists for Women in Society Eastern Sociological Society

WGS Statement on Academia and Free Speech Rights

It is inherent to the discipline of Women's Studies to deal with complex subjects through theoretical lenses, which question conventional knowledge production. This department, one of the most distinguished departments of WGS in the country, has a highly visible faculty of national and international reputation invited to speak in various fora on sometimes highly controversial subjects. Such faculty members, as scholars, have not only a right, but also an obligation to produce and disseminate knowledge within and beyond the academy. Moreover, as private citizens, our faculty continue to enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any private citizen and in accordance with university policy the department supports their protection from institutional discipline in the exercise of these academic and free speech rights. 

Rutgers University Policy on Academic Freedom

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