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Author Talk: Joanna Kempner, Not Tonight: Tuesday, July 7

June 11, 2015
Not Tonight -- book cover

"Not Tonight" book by Joanna Kempner

Joanna Kempner

Joanna Kempner

Joanna Kempner, associate professor of sociology, will deliver a talk about her book, Not Tonight:  Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health, on Tuesday, July 7, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in Alexander Library’s Scholarly Communications Center Teleconference Lecture Hall.  Admission to the talk, which will be followed by a light reception, is free and open to the public.  RSVP online here.

Migraine is a painful and debilitating condition that impacts millions of Americans and costs the US economy billions of dollars each year but is often dismissed by family, friends, and employers as trivial or even as as a facile excuse for those who wish to avoid the stress of their obligations.

In Not Tonight, published in 2014 by the University of Chicago Press, Kempner argues that the attitude of dismissal toward migraine and the stigmas attached to its sufferers are products of a long history of stereotypical thinking about gender and pain.  Kempner draws on sociology, anthropology, literature, history, and science to track feminized ideas about migraine from the disorder’s 19th century identification with neurotic women and effete, overly intellectual men, through the 1940s association of migraine with detached, sexually distant housewives, to contemporary notions of the over-sensitive “migraine brain.”  Kempner shows that, for years, these ideas have radically impacted medical practice, research funding, and the making of policies for people in pain.

Not Tonight has been widely recognized for its important contributions to disciplines ranging from cognitive science to gender and sexuality studies.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly noted that “Kempner expertly illustrates how social legitimation of an illness is a multifactorial process and that effective recognition of a disease, which provides the basis for serious advances in research and treatment, can only result from a broad acknowledgment that persons who suffer from it are worthy of such interventions.”

Kempner is associate professor of sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences, member of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, recipient of the Rutgers Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence, and blogger for  This reading is the second in a series of author talks being held at Alexander Library this summer, sponsored by Rutgers’ Division of Continuing Studies New Brunswick Summer Session Office in partnership with Rutgers University Libraries.

Visitors may park in Lot 26, Lot 30 and the College Avenue Deck without permits. Special event parking is only for visitors to the university and does not include free metered parking. Faculty, staff, and students must park only in lots for which they have authorization.  For more information, call University Libraries Administration at 848-932-7505.