University of Pittsburgh
February 19, 2008

Renowned Sociologist Francesca Polletta to Lecture at Pitt on the Reshaping of Urban Protest

Lecture addresses the role storytelling plays in social movements

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-From tales of 16th-century tax revolts to the story of the four Black college students who sat down at a Whites-only lunch counter in 1960 in Greensboro, N.C., a good story has always been a powerful way to stir people to action.

Francesca Polletta, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, will speak at Pitt on Feb. 28 at 2413 Posvar Hall, 230 S. Bouquet St., Oakland. Her lecture, titled "Victim Stories," will take place from noon to 1:30. An informal discussion on participatory democracy in social movements will run from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Polletta is a prominent scholar of narrative and storytelling in contemporary social movements. Defining culture more as familiar relationships, institutional routines, and conventions of self-expression than beliefs and worldviews, Polletta conducts research that explores how culture sets the terms of strategic action.

Her award-winning book "It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics" (University of Chicago Press, 2006) investigated the political advantages and risks of telling stories, especially for disadvantaged groups. It won honors from the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the Association for Humanist Sociology. Her 2002 book, "Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements" (University of Chicago Press), garnered Polletta a 2003 Distinguished Scholarly Book award and an Honorable Mention from the ASA, as well as an Academic Title Award from "Choice Magazine."

Her newest research, titled "Grand Designs: Public Deliberation in Rebuilding Ground Zero," involves work with an online forum that solicited opinions on what should be done with the site of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings. She and fellow researchers coded thousands of messages to see how people used and responded to personal stories as compared to reasons.

For more information on Polletta's appearance at Pitt, contact Kathleen Blee at

412-648-7590 or