The sociology of storytelling

Francesca Polletta, Pang Ching Bobby Chen, Beth Gharrity Gardner, Alice Motes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

298 Scopus citations


In contrast to the antistructuralist and antipositivist agenda that has animated the "narrative turn" in the social sciences since the 1980s, a more uniquely sociological approach has studied stories in the interactional, institutional, and political contexts of their telling. Scholars working in this vein have seen narrative as powerful, but as variably so, and they have focused on the ways in which narrative competence is socially organized and unevenly distributed. We show how this approach, or cluster of approaches, rooted variously in conversational analysis, symbolic interactionism, network analysis, and structuralist cultural sociologies, has both responded to problems associated with the narrative turn and shed light on enduring sociological questions such as the bases of institutional authority, how inequalities are maintained and reproduced, why political challengers are sometimes able to win support, and the cultural foundations of self-interest and instrumental rationality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-130
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Aug 11 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Discourse
  • Institutions
  • Narrative
  • Politics
  • Social movements


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