Jessica Polzer

Polzer headshotAssociate Professor
MSc, PhD
Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies & Health Sciences
Office: Lawson Hall 3237
Phone: 519-661-2111 ext. 81576



My interdisciplinary program of research focuses broadly on the biopolitics of health in the 21st century, with many of my former projects examining gendered experiences of health and embodiment in relation to discourses on risk and/or biotechnology. More recently, my work on risk and caregiving narratives contributes to the emergent field of the critical health humanities. My current research projects include the biopedagogical aspects of menstrual tracking experiences among gender-diverse app users and I have an ongoing fascination with the ways that statistics and statistical language are engaged in official and personal pandemic narratives. I have extensive experience designing, conducting, and supervising qualitative health research. My dissertation on women's shifting understandings of their genetic risks for breast cancer during the process of BRCA1/2 mutation testing was awarded the Illinois Distinguished Qualitative Dissertation Award by the International Center for Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.

Selected Publications

  1. Molinaro, M., Polzer, J., Laliberte Rudman, D. and Savundranayagan, M. (2023). “I can’t be the nurse I want to be”: Counter-stories of moral distress in pediatric oncology nurses’ caregiving narratives. Social Science and Medicine, 320, 
  2. Bourne, S., Kothari, A., Wathen, N., & Polzer, J. (2022). Canadian Environmental Health Officer Perceptions of Barriers to Research Utilization in Everyday and Emergency Practice. Environmental Health Review, 65(2), 45-55.  
  3. Baada, J. and Polzer, J. (2022). Ambivalent Complicities and Knowledge Production: Researching Migrant Women Farmers’ Reproductive Health Experiences in the Middle Belt of Ghana. Sociology of Health and Illness (Special Issue on Complicity: Methodologies of power, politics, and the ethics of knowledge production).  
  4. Polzer, J., Sui, A., Ge, K. and Cayen, L. (2022). Empowerment through participatory surveillance? Menstrual and fertility self-tracking apps as postfeminist biopedagogies. In Fellows, J. and Smith, L. (Eds.). Gender, Sex, and Tech!  An Intersectional Feminist Guide. Toronto: Canadian Scholars and Women’s Press.   
  5. Polzer, J. and Wakewich, P. (2021). Mothers who know best: Narratives of motherhood and epistemological anxieties in vaccine hesitancy discourse. In Neil Brooks and Sarah Blanchette (Eds.), Narrative Art and the Politics of Health. London, UK: Anthem Press. pp. 95-117. 
  6. Polzer, J., Cayen, L., and Molinaro, M. (2020). The shifting politics of health in Canada: Papanicolaou (Pap) screening, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, and cervical cancer prevention. In Tremblay, M. and Everitt, J. (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Gender, Sexuality and Canadian Politics. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 485-506. 
  7. Haw, J., Polzer, J., Devine, D.  (2020). Emotional labour and cord blood donation: Perspectives of frontline staff. Journal of Health Organization and Management. DOI (10.1108/JHOM-10-2019-0305). 
  8.  Katzman, E., Kinsella, A., and Polzer, J. (2020). ‘Everything is down to the minute’: clock time, crip time and the relational work of self-managing attendant service. Disability and Society, 35(4): 517-541.
  9.  Haw, J., Polzer, J., Devine, D. (2019). Contextual factors influencing donor recruitment and cord blood collection: Perspectives of frontline staff of the Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank. Transfusion, 59(5), 1742-1748.
  10.  Rail, G., Molina, L., Fusco, C., Norman, M., Petherick, L., Polzer, J., Moola, F., and Bryson, M. (2018). HPV Vaccination Discourses and the Construction of "At-Risk" Girls". Canadian Journal of Public Health, 109(5-6), 622-632.
  11. Polzer, J. and Power, E. (2016). Neoliberal Governance and Health: Duties, Risks and Vulnerabilities. Montreal, Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press. 
  12.  Sanford, S., Polzer, J., & McDonough, P. (2016). Preparedness as a technology of (in)security: Pandemic influenza planning and the global biopolitics of emerging infectious disease. Social Theory & Health, 14(1), 18-43.
  13.  Polzer, J., Mancuso, F. & Laliberte Rudman, D. (2014). Risk, responsibility, resistance: Young women’s negotiations of identity and healthy citizenship in human papillomavirus (HPV) narratives. Narrative Inquiry, 24(2), 281-308.
  14.   McDonough, P. & Polzer, J.  (2012). Habitus, hysteresis and organizational change in the public sector, Canadian Journal of Sociology, 37(4), 357-380.
  15.  Polzer, J. & Knabe, S. (2012). From desire to disease: Human papillomavirus (HPV) and the medicalization of nascent female sexuality. Special issue of the Journal of Sex Research on the Medicalization of Sex, 49(4), 344-352.
  16.  Mancuso, F. & Polzer, J. (2010). “It’s your body but…”: Young women’s narratives of declining human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, Canadian Woman Studies, 28 (2-3, Spring/Summer), 77-81. Special issue on Women and Cancer.
  17. Polzer, J. & Robertson, A.  (2010). Seeing and knowing in 21st century genomic medicine: The clinical pedigree as epistemological tool and hybrid risk technique, New Genetics & Society, 29(2), 133-147.
  18.  MacEachen, E., Polzer, J., & Clarke, J. (2008). "You are free to set your own hours": Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience, Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1019-1033.
  19. Polzer, J., Mercer, S., Goel, V. (2002). ‘Blood is thicker than water’: Genetic testing as citizenship through familial obligation and the management of risk, Critical Public Health, 12(2), 1-16.