Graduate Faculty

Kempner, Joanna

  • Portrait
  • Associate Professor
  • Department: Department of Sociology
  • Email:
  • Tel: : 848-932-5876
  • Office: Davison Hall, 134








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, inequality, and the body.

Biographical Notes

Joanna Kempner, associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, studies the politics of disease, an area where medicine, science, inequality, and the political suppression of science intersect. Her award-winning book, Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (Chicago 2014), uncovers how gendered bias undermines and devalues headache medicine, affecting how we talk about, understand, and make policies for people in pain. She is a consultant on an NSF RAPID grant investigating the ethical challenges in conducting Do-it-yourself (DIY) science during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2015, she received the Rutgers’ Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence, one of Rutgers’ highest honors. Kempner publishes in a broad range of science, medical and social science journals, including Science, Headache, Social Science & Medicine, Gender & Society, and Public Library of Science. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers, Professor Kempner received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, participated as a fellow the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program and worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University.

Click here to view CV of Professor Kempner.

Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

  • 2020-21 Consultant, Rapid NSF Grant: Assessing Ethical Challenges in Conducting Do-it-yourself (DIY) Science During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Co-PIs: Anna Wexler and Lisa Rasmussen. Institution: University of Pennsylvania
  • 2018 Excellence in Education for Cluster Headaches, Clusterbusters.
  • 2017-18 Faculty Fellow, Center for Cultural Analysis, “Medical Humanities,” Rutgers University
  • 2016-17 Faculty Fellow, Institute for Research on Women, “Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis,” Rutgers University
  • 2015 Rutgers Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence
  • 2012 Honorable Mention, Star-Nelkin Paper Award. Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association
  • 2009-10 Faculty Fellow, Center for Cultural Analysis, “Evidence and Explanation in the Arts and Sciences,” Rutgers University
  • 2006 Roberta G. Simmons Award for Outstanding Dissertation, Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association
  • 2004-06 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research


Selected Publications

Kempner, Joanna (2014) Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Winner: 2016 Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award. Awarded by the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.

2016 Eileen Basker Memorial Prize. Awarded by the Society for Medical Anthropology.

Kempner, Joanna (2020) “Post-truth and the production of ignorance. A Commentary on Staying the Course: On the Value of Social Studies of Science in Resistance to the “Post‐Truth” Movement.” Sociological Forum. 35(1).

Kempner, Joanna, John Bailey (2019) “Collective Self-Experimentation in Patient-Led Research: How Online Health Communities Foster Innovation. Social Science & Medicine. 238.

Kempner, Joanna (2018) “Building a Socially-Just Neuroethics of Inequalities in Pain Treatment.” Pain Neuroethics. Developments in Neuroethics and Bioethics, volume 1. Daniel Buchman and Karen Davis, eds. London: Routledge.

Kempner, Joanna (2017) “Invisible people with invisible pain. A Commentary on “Even my sister says I’m acting like a crazy to get a check: Race, gender, and moral boundary-work in women’s claims of disabling chronic pain.” Social Science & Medicine. 189: 152-154.

Kempner, Joanna (2016) “What biology can’t do.” Headache. 56(5): 1047-1052.

Kempner, Joanna (2015) “The production of forbidden knowledge.” In Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies. Eds. Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey. New York: Routledge.

Young, William B., Iris X. Tian, Jung E. Park, Joanna Kempner (2013) "The stigma of migraine." Public Library of Science One. 8(1): e54074.

Kempner, Joanna, Jon F. Merz, Charles L. Bosk (2011) “Forbidden knowledge: Public controversy and the production of nonknowledge.” Sociological Forum. 26(3). 475-500. Lead article.

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