Junior Fellows

Junior Fellows are students enrolled at Yale who are engaged in the PhD program and who work in the CCS. They are the core participants in our weekly workshop along with any visiting scholars.

Alphabetical, by last name

Vanessa BittnerVanessa Bittner

Vanessa received her B.A in Sociology & Gender Studies from the University of Konstanz, Germany, and her M.A and MPhil at Yale. Her research is concerned with controversial icons, and why they polarize audiences. Analyzing cases like Colin Kaepernick and Greta Thunberg, she argues that controversies surrounding these figures are not just celebrity scandals, but tools of communication that drive public discourse and function as proxy battlegrounds for deeper ideological questions. Within this framework, she considers controversial icons to be symbolic “lightning rods”, through which audiences imagine themselves, and draw boundaries between themselves and a concrete “Other”.

Anne Marie Champagne

Research interests: Cultural Sociology (visual and material culture, iconicity, performativity and symbolic interaction); Sociology of Gender, Medicine and the Body; Sociology of Conscience, Moral Development and Social Solidarity; Social Theory. Anne Marie Champagne’s current research projects include an investigation of the relationship between breast surgery and gender wellness (meaning-making, affirmation, and performance) among breast cancer survivors and female-to-male transgender persons as well as an historical examination of the civil sphere’s influence in the social construction and (re)interpretation of masculinity. Education: B.A. Multidisciplinary Studies (Social Science, Communications and Educational Psychology), University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Shivani ChoudharyShivani Choudhary

Shivani Choudhary is a PhD Candidate in Sociology and a Junior Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology. Her research aims to understand and explain the relationship between politics, culture and religion in society. Her work proposes elaborating on this connection by analyzing the symbolism and cultural politics of India’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Areas of Research Interest: Cultural Politics and Symbolism in India, Populism, Religious Nationalism, Civil Sphere and Cultural Associations in India, Performative Politics and Caste inequalities.

She received her MPhil & M.A. in Political Science from Center for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University.

Jessie Dong Jessie Dong

Jessie Dong is a PhD Candidate in Sociology and a Junior Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology. Her interests lie at the nexus of culture – broadly understood as collectively shared meaning – and relationalism. More specifically, she is interested in exploring how notions of political community are created through the substantive meaning of the ties which bind people together in a variety of cultural contexts. Her B.A. thesis centered on a refugee-led walking tour in Berlin. It proposed an analytical framework with which to evaluate the efficacy of such performative political interventions, integrating logic-centered analysis and cultural performance theory.

Adam Valen Levinson

Adam Valen Levinson is deeply interested in understanding cultural boundaries, and meaningful ways to discuss and (re)categorize social groups. He sees humor as a key to cultural understanding, and researches how different communities define what is offensive, what is shocking, what is funny — most recently by embedding himself (and performing) in the stand-up comedy scenes in Shanghai and Tel Aviv. Adam speaks French and Arabic, and majored in Political Science and Linguistics at Columbia University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). His first book is called The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah.

Nicolás Rudas Nicolás Rudas

Nicolás received his B.A and M.A in Sociology from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He is interested in the relationship between culture, radicalism and democracy.  Part of his research focuses on leftist revolutionary movements that emerged on Latin American universities during the sixties. It shows how they gradually distanced themselves from violent rhetoric and embraced a civil discourse through the use of specific symbols and narratives. He currently investigates how ’scientific icons’ (figures, diagrams, charts) shape public controversies in contexts of polarization, such as post-war Colombia.

Willa SachsWilla Sachs

B.A. Kenyon College, 2016
M.A., Sociology, Yale University, 2021

Areas of Interest: 
Law & Society; Social Movements; Cultural Sociology; Racial Politics

Willa Sachs is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Junior Fellow at the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Kenyon College in 2016. Prior to attending Yale, she worked at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, coordinating the production of the socio-legal journal Law & Social Inquiry.

Her research broadly centers on how legal idioms and ideologies shape social movement activists’ discursive practices, objectives, identities, and understandings of justice. Her dissertation examines the relationship between political trials and the production of legal consciousness through an analysis of four high-profile criminal trials involving the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s. A related research project examines the role of American constitutional thought in the ideological agenda and framing strategies of the Black Panther Party from 1969 to 1971.

She has recently published an article with Jeffrey C. Alexander that examines the role of social movements as a mediating force between public opinion and presidential politics, using American second-wave feminism as a case study.

Sachs, Willa and Jeffrey C. Alexander. “Presidential versus Civil Power: Public Opinion, Second-Wave Feminism, and Party Politics in the U.S., 1969-1989.” Cultural Sociology (Forthcoming)

Sena SahinSena Şahin

Sena Şahin received her B.A. in English Language and Literature from Boğaziçi University in 2018 and her M.A. in Cultural Studies from Sabancı University in 2021. She is interested in the relationship between the remembrance of conflictual and traumatic geopolitical pasts and the construction of exclusionary and restrictive collective identities. She is specifically interested in the role of culture in this relationship and the question of whether there are common cultural structures among those countries whose narrative construction of traumatic territory and independence loss, and conflict formulate a particularistic understanding of national identities.

Anne Taylor

Anne’s research explores charisma in American political, cultural, and religious history, with a particular emphasis on religious nationalism, populism, evangelical revival, and pop culture fandoms. In 2020, the Yale MacMillan Center awarded her the Pre-Dissertation International Research Grant, and the International Dissertation Research Grant. Anne holds a BA in History from Gordon College (2010; Wenham, MA), and a second BA in Sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2016), where she graduated summa cum laude, with distinction, for her honors thesis, “A Shared Revelation: Charismatic Communities and the Puritan Experiment in Early New England,” advised by sociologist Isaac Reed.

Yuqing ‘Dorothy’ Wu Yuqing ‘Dorothy’ Wu

Dorothy (Yuqing) Wu is from Changsha, China and received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with triple-majors in philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Currently looking at how media culture contributes to soft power in the United States and East Asia (China, Japan, and South Korea), Yuqing Wu has a general interest in communication, public relations, visual persuasion, and iconicity – how they matter to individuals as well as national branding. 

Her past research examined the perception and experience of Chinese international students in the United States, which can be accessed at http://utsynergyjournal.org/2019/03/25/away-from-home-chinese-international-students-at-uw-madison/?fbclid=IwAR3IEx8MAArzq8fiD8uekGLSM1-cTyun–IDKHoz7DF0mSh64m4r-j9F_Uk