It Was Like a Fever
Storytelling in Protest and Politics
Francesca Polletta’s It Was Like a Fever sets out to account for the power of storytelling in mobilizing political and social movements. Drawing on cases ranging from sixteenth-century tax revolts to contemporary debates about the future of the World Trade Center site, Polletta argues that stories are politically effective not when they have clear moral messages, but when they have complex, often ambiguous ones. The openness of stories to interpretation has allowed disadvantaged groups, in particular, to gain a hearing for new needs and to forge surprising political alliances. But popular beliefs in America about storytelling as a genre have also hurt those challenging the status quo.
A rich analysis of storytelling in courtrooms, newsrooms, public forums, and the United States Congress, It Was Like a Fever offers provocative new insights into the dynamics of culture and contention.
American Sociological Association/Culture Section Best Book Award: ASA - Mary Douglas Prize
American Sociological Association: ASA-Charles Tilly Award for Best Book
American Sociological Association: ASA-Political Sociology Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award
1. Why Stories Matter
2. "It was like a fever . . .": Why People Protest
3. Strategy as Metonymy: Why Activists Choose the Strategies They Do
4. Stories and Reasons: Why Deliberation Is Only Sometimes Democratic
5. Ways of Knowing and Stories Worth Telling: Why Casting Oneself as a Victim Sometimes Hurts the Cause
6. Remembering Dr. King on the House and Senate Floor: Why Movements Have the Impacts They Do
7. Conclusion: Folk Wisdom and Scholarly Tales