Stories of Change

Narrative and Social Movements

Edited by Joseph E. Davis

Subjects: Anthropology
Paperback : 9780791451922, 294 pages, January 2002
Hardcover : 9780791451915, 294 pages, January 2002

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Table of contents


Part One: Narrative and the Sociology of Social Movements

1. Narrative and Social Movements: The Power of Stories
Joseph E. Davis

2. Plotting Protest: Mobilizing Stories in the 1960 Student Sit-Ins
Francesca Polletta

3. Controlling Narratives and Narratives as Control within Social Movements
Robert D. Benford

Part Two: Analysis of Narrative in Social Movements

4. "Getting Our Histories Straight": Culture, Narrative, and Identity in the Self-Help Movement
John Steadman Rice

5. Moving Toward the Light: Self, Other, and the Politics of Experience in New Age Narratives
Michael F. Brown

6. Fundamentalism: When History Goes Awry
Joshua J. Yates and James Davison Hunter

7. Drug Court Stories: Transforming American Jurisprudence
James L. Nolan Jr.

8. Compassion on Trial: Movement Narrative in a Court Conflict over Physician Assisted Suicide
Jeffery D. Tatum

9. Movement Advocates as Battered Women's Storytellers: From Varied Experiences, One Message
Bess Rothenberg

Part Three: Conclusion

10. The Storied Group: Social Movements as "Bundles of Narratives"
Gary Alan Fine



Applies narrative analysis to the study of social movements.


Despite the amount of storytelling in social movements, little attention has been paid to narrative as a form of movement discourse or as a mode of social interaction. Stories of Change is a systematic study of narrative as well as a demonstration of the power of narrative analysis to illuminate many features of contemporary social movements. Davis includes a wide array of stories of change—stories of having been harmed or wronged, stories of conflict with unjust authorities, stories of liberation and empowerment, and stories of strategic success and failure. By showing how these stories are a powerful vehicle for producing, regulating, and diffusing shared meaning, the contributors explore movement stories, their functions, and the conditions under which they are created and performed. They show how narrative study can illuminate social movement emergence, recruitment, internal dynamics, and identity building.

Joseph E. Davis is Research Assistant Professor of Sociology and Program Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is the editor of Identity and Social Change.


"This book treats a topic that reflects issues that are currently on the cutting edge of the field of social movements and moves it forward. It is quite interesting to read, especially since some of the movements have not had much written about them and are generally less contentious than the movements that received center stage. " — William A. Gamson, author of Talking Politics

"A contribution to the growing 'cultural turn' in the study of social movements, this book's major strength is its focus on a particular aspect of culture—narrative—and its uses in movements. The topic is significant in that the dominant approaches to social movements and culture have been cognitive, strategic, and other forms of ideological analysis. Attention to affect, stories, and narrative forms a coming wave. " — Rhys H. Williams, editor of Promise Keepers and the New Masculinity: Private Lives and Public Morality