About

I am an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University
kempner-avatarwhere I write, research and speak about medicine, science, politics, gender and the body.

My first book, Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health, examines the gendered social values embedded in the way we talk about, understand, and make policies for people in pain. In 2016, the American Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Section awarded Not Tonight the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award and the Society for Medical Anthropology awarded Not Tonight the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize for its contribution to anthropological scholarship on gender and health.

In addition to studying how social relations shape the production of knowledge, my research also investigates how the social world shapes what we do not know or what scholars are now calling “agnotology,” aka the study of ignorance.  might be best thought of as the “flip side” of epistemology. My early work demonstrates how scientists come to understand which science is too controversial, sensitive or taboo to study. My next book project asks how knowledge can be produced even when the government explicitly forbids its production. In this historical and ethnographic study, I follow the work of activists who, despite drug prohibition, study the medicinal properties of psychedelic drugs by experimenting on their own bodies in underground collectives. Recently, these citizen science projects have gained the attention of policymakers and academics, paving the way for a growing number of FDA-approved clinical trials on psychedelics, cannabis, and MDMA.

I received my PhD from Penn’s Department of Sociology and I worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University. I was also a postdoctoral fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at the University of Michigan from 2004-2006.

Follow me on twitter: www.twitter.com/joannakempner

You can also read my posts on migraine.com