Francesca Polletta is a sociologist who studies the cultural dimensions of protest and politics, asking how and when politically disadvantaged groups are able to mobilize meanings effectively to create change.
In one line of research, she has examined the cultural conditions for radical democracy in social movements, and, in her more recent work, in everyday political and economic institutions. In a second line of research, she asks whether disadvantaged groups are well served politically by telling personal stories. She has shown that popular conventions of storytelling have created obstacles to reform – less by limiting what disadvantaged groups can imagine than by limiting their opportunities to tell authoritative stories. In her current work, Polletta is combining experimental research on how people read stories with interviews with advocates in a variety of movements, to identify the challenges of using stories effectively. In a third project, she is collaborating with computational linguists to identify the conditions in which ordinary people are able to reflect on the competing frames that underpin policy debates.
Polletta’s previous work has shown that how issues are framed shapes people’s opinions. She and her collaborators found that highlighting those frames led to greater agreement among conservatives and liberals about the existence of climate change.
Social Sciences International Fellowship, Vreije Universitat Amsterdam, 2013–15
American Sociological Association, Collective Behavior and Social Movements section, 2008, 2003
Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, 2004–05
Open Society Institute Fellow, 2000–01