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Francesca Polletta Sociologist

Francesca Polletta 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, both 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. Popular conventions of storytelling have created obstacles to reform, she showed, less by limiting what disadvantaged groups can imagine than by limiting the occasions on which they can tell authoritative stories. In her current research, she 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. Previous work has shown that how issues are framed shapes people’s opinions. Polletta and collaborators found that highlighting those frames led to greater agreement among conservatives and liberals about the existence of climate change.


Vreije Universitat (Amsterdam), Social Sciences International Fellowship, 2013-2015.

American Sociological Association, Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section, 2008.

Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, 2004-5.

American Sociological Association, Collective Behavior/Social Movements Section, 2003.

Open Society Institute Fellow, 2000-2001.

Relevant Publications

H. Markus et al, “The Limits of Plot” , American Journal of Cultural Sociology 1(3): 289-320, 2013



Senior Fellow Successful Societies


University of California, IrvineDepartment of Sociology


BA (Sociology of Law) Brown University

MPhil (Sociology) Yale University

PhD (Sociology) Yale University


United States

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