By Francesca Polletta
Activists and politicians have lengthy well-known the ability of an exceptional tale to maneuver humans to motion. In early 1960 4 black students sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and refused to go away. inside a month sit-ins unfold to thirty towns in seven states. scholar members instructed tales of impulsive, spontaneous action—this regardless of all of the making plans that had long past into the sit-ins. “It was once like a fever,” they said.Francesca Polletta’s It used to be Like a Fever units out to account for the facility of storytelling in mobilizing political and social pursuits. Drawing on situations starting from sixteenth-century tax revolts to modern debates concerning the way forward for the area alternate middle website, Polletta argues that tales are politically powerful now not after they have transparent ethical messages, but if they've got complicated, usually ambiguous ones. The openness of reports to interpretation has allowed deprived teams, particularly, to achieve a listening to for brand spanking new wishes and to forge miraculous political alliances. yet renowned ideals in the United States approximately storytelling as a style have additionally damage these hard the prestige quo.A wealthy research of storytelling in courtrooms, newsrooms, public boards, and the USA Congress, It used to be Like a Fever deals provocative new insights into the dynamics of tradition and competition. (20060117)
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Extra info for It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics
When disadvantaged groups or people challenging the status quo tell stories, they may be especially vulnerable to skepticism about the authority, generalizability, or authenticity of the form. 39 If my hunch is right, groups and activities with higher social status should both gain from norms of storytelling and be able to breach them with fewer ramiﬁcations. Recall the stories that people told in small 25 CHAPTER ONE claims court that I referred to a moment ago: successful litigants told non-storylike stories in which rules were divorced from their social context, and unsuccessful litigants told stories that emphasized the obligations inhering in social relationships.
Movement stories turn the strange into the new. This does not mean, however, that they fully explain the new. As I argue in this chapter, stories contain rather than resolve ambiguity. This is part of what makes them so engaging and compels their retelling. When students described the sit-ins as “spontaneous,” and as “exploding,” “welling up,” and “like a fever,” they captured the indeﬁnable moment when a group of separate individuals became a collective actor. 7 This argument departs from current thinking about how people are persuaded to mobilize.
In these two cases, and in the rest of book, I argue that narrative analysis can help to explain not only the emergence of contentious issues but other processes that are central to politics and protest: mobilization in ﬂedgling movements, tactical choice in movement groups, the legal adjudication of equal rights claims, compromise in public deliberation, and competition between activist elites and electoral ones. Features of narrative that I have already described, notably, its integration of explanation and evaluation, its dependence on a common stock of plots, and its openness to interpretation, are all important to narrative’s role in those processes.