2019 Guest Speakers


Joanna Kempner, associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University and affiliate member of Rutgers’s Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, works at the intersection of medicine, science, gender, and the body. Her research investigates knowledge production as cultural work, inscribed with and shaped by tacit assumptions about social relations across gender, race, and class. Her first book, Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (Chicago 2014), examines the social values embedded in the way we talk about, understand, and make policies for people in pain. She has also written extensively on the formation of “forbidden knowledge,” which are the boundaries that form around what we think is too dangerous, sensitive or taboo to research. Kempner is currently working on several projects related to the politics of disease, pharmaceutical development, and health care delivery, including a book manuscript on the various successes of underground psychedelic drug research.

Professor Kempner received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, participated in 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. She has won several awards for her research, including the 2016 American Sociological Association’s Eliot Freidson award for Outstanding Publication in Medical Sociology in honor of Not Tonight. She writes for a wide variety of audiences, publishing in journals like Science, Social Science & Medicine, Gender & Society, and Public Library of Science Medicine.


Joseph Kotarba, PhD, is Professor of Sociology at Texas State University. He is also Medical Sociologist at the Institute for Translational Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. Dr. Kotarba received his doctorate from the University of California, San Diego. His major areas of scholarly interest are health, culture, and science. Dr. Kotarba’s studies in health have included (among others) the chronic pain experience; the social organization of aerospace medicine; the HIV/AIDS hospice; the delivery of emergency health care at pop music festivals; women’s and men’s sports medicine as occupational health care; and the team concept in community health care. He is currently writing on the culture of biomedical team science; the impact of the translational science movement on scientists’ self-identity; recreational and therapeutic music experiences among the elderly; and the persistence of existential ideas in contemporary intellectual life. Dr. Kotarba’s most recent book is Understanding Society through Popular Music (Routledge 2018). The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction awarded him the George Herbert Mead Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Dr. Kotarba's featured presentation for the Qualitatives is titled “Translational Biomedical Science: The Evolution of Qualitative Contributions.”