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Samantha Kwan

Samantha Kwan

Associate Professor and
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Phone: (713)743-3948
Email: sskwan [at] uh [dot] edu
Office: 496 Philip G. Hoffman Hall
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Ph.D., Sociology, University of Arizona
M.A., Sociology, University of Arizona
B.A. (Hons.), Sociology and Criminology, University of Toronto


Samantha Kwan is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology. Professor Kwan teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on research methods, as well as the sociology of the body. Her research uses mixed methods (i.e., content analysis, quantitative surveys, and qualitative interviews) to examine the politics of embodiment. Specifically, she examines how individuals embody, resist, and negotiate body norms and conventions, and how social location shapes these negotiations. She is coauthor (with Jennifer Graves) of Framing Fat: Competing Constructions in Contemporary Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2013) and coeditor (with Chris Bobel) of Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules (Vanderbilt University Press, 2011). With Rose Weitz she coedited The Politics of Women's Bodies, 4th edition (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is currently coediting (with Chris Bobel), Body Battlegrounds: Transgressions, Tensions, and Transformations (Vanderbilt University Press, forthcoming), and coauthoring (with Jennifer Graves), a book about authenticity, stigma, and cosmetic surgery. Professor Kwan’s research has been reported in, among other media outlets, the New York Times, Forbes, and USA Today.

Professor Kwan is the Director of the UH Cougar Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament. She is passionate about supporting wheelchair athletics on campus and welcomes inquiries from potential donors and sponsors.

In 2012, Professor Kwan was awarded the Provost’s Teaching Excellence Award and the Ross M. Lence Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2013, she received the University Commission on Women’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award. In 2017, the Houston YWCA recognized Professor Kwan’s service to the Houston community with the Outstanding Women Honoree in Education Award.

Research Interests

  • Research Methods
  • Body and Health


  • Introduction to Sociological Research (Undergraduate)
  • Qualitative Research Methods (Graduate)
  • Research and Writing in the Social Sciences (Graduate)
  • Sociology of the Body (Graduate and Undergraduate)

Selected Publications

  • Weitz, Rose and Samantha Kwan, editors. 2014. The Politics of Women's Bodies. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kwan, Samantha and Jennifer Graves. 2013. Framing Fat: Competing Constructions in Contemporary Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Bobel, Chris and Samantha Kwan, editors. 2011. Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
  • Kwan, Samantha. 2011. “Lay Perspectives on the Biomedical Paradigm on ‘Obesity’: Theorizing Weight, Health, and Happiness.” Social Theory & Health 9(4): 1-17.
  • Kwan, Samantha and Mary Nell Trautner. 2011. “Weighty Concerns.” Contexts 10(2): 52-57.
  • Kwan, Samantha and Mary Nell Trautner. 2011. “Judging Books by their Covers: Teaching about Physical Attractiveness Biases.” Teaching Sociology 39(1): 16-26.
  • Trautner, Mary Nell and Samantha Kwan. 2010. “Gendered Appearance Norms: An Analysis of Employment Discrimination Lawsuits, 1973-2006.” Research in the Sociology of Work 20: 127-150.
  • Kwan, Samantha. 2010. “Navigating Public Spaces in Everyday Life: Gender, Race, and Body Privilege.” Feminist Formations 22(2): 144–166.
  • Kwan, Samantha. 2009. “Framing the Fat Body: Contested Meanings Between Government, Activists, and Industry.” Sociological Inquiry 79(1): 25-50.
  • Kwan, Samantha. 2009. “Competing Motivational Discourses for Weight Loss: The Nexus of Health and Beauty.” Qualitative Health Research 19(9): 1223-1233.
  • Kwan, Samantha and Mary Nell Trautner. 2009. “Beauty Work: Individual and Institutional Rewards, the Reproduction of Gender, and Questions of Agency.” Sociology Compass 3(1): 49-71.