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Sujatha Fernandes, ‘Curated stories: How storytelling is hindering social change’

by Gareth Bryant on October 6, 2016

Sujatha Fernandes (University of Sydney), ‘Curated stories: How storytelling is hindering social change’, followed by welcome reception

This is the sixth instalment of the semester two seminar series organised by the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. We are pleased to be co-hosting this seminar with the Department of Anthropology.

The seminar will be followed by a reception to welcome Sujatha to the University of Sydney as a newly appointed Professor of Political Economy and Sociology.


Thursday 13 October 2016

Time and location

Seminar: 3.00pm-4.30pm (note earlier time than usual), Darlington Centre Boardroom

Welcome reception: 4.30pm-6.00pm, The Forum Restaurant at The Darlington Centre


Seminar: Gareth Bryant, or Luis Angosto-Ferrández,

Welcome reception: Grace Zhang,


In the contemporary era we have seen a proliferation of storytelling activities, from the phenomenon of TED talks and Humans of New York to a plethora of story-coaching agencies and consultants. My talk, based on my forthcoming book, seeks to understand the rise of this storytelling culture alongside a broader shift to neoliberal free market economies. Suturing together a Foucaultian account of neoliberal reason with Marxian and Gramscian accounts of class formation, I develop a concept of the political economy of storytelling. I discuss how in the turn to free market orders, stories have been reconfigured to promote entrepreneurial self-making and are restructured as easily digestible soundbites mobilized toward utilitarian ends. In my talk, I examine an online women’s creative writing project sponsored by the US State Department in Afghanistan as an example of how stories can be drawn into soft power strategies of imperial statecraft in the context of military intervention. But I also conclude with some reflections on how we can find a way beyond curated storytelling, with a discussion of the Mision Cultura storytelling workshops in Venezuela.

About the speaker

Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney, which she joined in 2016. Previously she was a Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Before this, she was a Wilson-Cotsen Fellow at Princeton University’s Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts (2003 – 2006). She has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Fernandes is the author of Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures (Duke University Press, 2006), Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela (Duke University Press, 2010), and Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation (Verso, 2011). Her latest book entitled, Curated Stories: How Storytelling is Hindering Social Change, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2017. She has published articles in many edited volumes and journals, including Signs, Contexts, Latin American Politics & Society, Ethnography, and Anthropological Quarterly. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, and Chinese. She is a contributor to The New York Times,The Nation, and Dissent, among other publications. She has been featured in New York’s Daily News, and has appeared on ABC Australia, NPR, MSNBC, American Public Radio, BBC, and many other news outlets globally. She is an editorial board member of Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora.

Full Political Economy seminar schedule

All welcome!


Gareth Bryant
Gareth Bryant is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.
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