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Mobilizing Stories

by Sujatha Fernandes on November 23, 2015

I am very happy to share the news of my joint appointment at the rank of Professor in the Departments of Political Economy and Sociology & Social Policy at the University of Sydney, beginning May 2016. Nearly twenty years ago, I completed my BA Honors in the Department of Political Economy, before leaving Australia to do a PhD in Political Science at the University of Chicago. My experiences in the Department, and at the University of Sydney more broadly, were strongly formative in my scholarly trajectory and my interdisciplinary interests. I have always nurtured a dream of someday returning to my intellectual roots, and I am delighted that this opportunity has now been offered to me.

For the past ten years, I have been at Queens College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). It has been a tremendously enriching experience teaching the diverse, working class students of New York City and being in a public university with strong traditions of public engagement and unconventional approaches to the study of society, politics, and economics. I have had the privilege of being a part of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CPCP) at the CUNY Graduate Center, and from 2013 – 2014 I was Acting Associate Director of the Center, working closely alongside the directors David Harvey and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. I look forward to building connections between CPCP and the University of Sydney, highlighting crossovers in the work being done at both places.

My most recent book, Mobilizing Stories: The Political Uses of Storytelling, under contract with Oxford University Press, is located at the intersection of approaches from both political economy and sociology. In the contemporary era, storytelling has become a strategy used by corporations, governments, non-profit organisations, and in election campaigns, cultural diplomacy, and legislative advocacy. In Mobilizing Stories, I develop the concept of the “political economy of storytelling” to explain:

  1. the production, circulation, and consumption of stories that are mobilised toward certain instrumental ends; and
  2. how storytelling has created new kinds of social subjects who aspire to upward mobility and individual improvement rather than challenging the political and economic structures that produce global inequality.

I draw on frameworks of post-politics and passive revolution to understand how the storytelling turn has been part of broader attempts by dominant groups to reconstitute hegemony in the face of global protests that threatened to unravel projects of neoliberal capitalism.

This recent work fits well with the orientation of scholars in PE and Sociology, who have organised reading groups and conferences on Gramsci, passive revolution, global inequality, neoliberalism, and other themes that are at the heart of my book and my broader research. I look forward to becoming a part of this intellectual community in PE, Sociology and beyond.

Sujatha Fernandes
Sujatha Fernandes is Professor of Political Economy and Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney.
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