Junior Fellows

Vanessa Bittner

Vanessa received her BA in Sociology and Gender Studies from the University of Konstanz, Germany, with her main interest lying in the intersection between cultural sociology and criminology. She aims to research the relationship between Celebrity & Crime, specifically how those narratives of criminality are constructed in the media and evaluated by the general public regarding ideas of morality and celebrities’ function as role models contributing to personal and national identity. Further interests include concepts of beauty, evil and charisma, as well as competitiveness and deviance.

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.

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.

Dana Hayward

Dana’s research explores the culture-shifting potential of law - in other words, the power of the law to alter social norms and values, rather than simply setting and enforcing rules. However, it can be difficult to study the cultural impact of legislation empirically, as laws both shape and are shaped by their cultural contexts. In her work, Dana suggests that a comparative analysis of close votes offers a promising solution to this dilemma. Drawing on insights from quasi-experimental research design, she argues that legislative decisions that pass or fail by narrow margins allow for comparisons in which levels of cultural support are held constant. Dana looks for cases in which the passage of legislation can essentially be considered an experimental “treatment”, and studies the cultural implications of these laws. She has used this approach to study the decriminalization of sex work in New Zealand, state-level ballot measures about the right to die in Oregon and Washington, and laws pertaining to parental notification of abortion in Washington and Colorado. For the 2019/20 academic year, Dana is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at Berkeley Law. More information about her research can be found at www.danahayward.com.

Till Hilmar

Till’s research interests at Yale include the social meaning of visuality and iconography, historical sociology and social memory studies. With a background in political science, he is interested in researching political culture and the political meaning of the link between social structures and conceptions of individuality. His research interests also cover transformation processes in East-Central Europe after 1989. Prior to his graduate studies at Yale, he has worked at memorial sites in East-Central Europe and has published on educational and sociological aspects of visits to sites commemorating the victims of National Socialism.

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.

Willa Sachs

Willa Sachs is a PhD student in Sociology and Junior Fellow in the Center for Cultural Sociology. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Kenyon College in 2016. Her research commitments center on how cultural, political and legal constructions of race are mobilized or reconfigured via social movements. Prior to attending Yale, she worked at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, coordinating the production of the socio-legal journal Law & Social Inquiry. At the American Bar Foundation, she engaged in a joint research project examining organizing tactics utilized by civil rights organizers during the early 1960s—in particular, how they conceived of as well as mobilized understandings of social movement success and failure. 

Education: B.A. Kenyon College, 2016

Areas of Interest: Cultural Sociology; Social Movements; Qualitative Methods; Racial Politics, Sociology of Law

Email: willa.sachs@yale.edu

Anne Taylor

Anne blends cultural sociology and comparative-historical methods to study charisma, religion, and power, specifically interactions between charismatic Christian communities and political structures in society. Currently, she is researching the world of early modern Britain and British North America, with a particular emphasis on the Puritan project in Massachusetts Bay colony in the 17th century. She is also interested in cultural trauma during and following imperial projects, which work with their own infusions of charisma, as well as contemporary American evangelicalism, the 2007 U.S. financial crisis, and the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Anne is originally from Boulder, Colorado, and holds a B.A. in History from Gordon College (2010; Wenham, Massachusetts), as well as a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she graduated ‘summa cum laude,’ with distinction in 2016.

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. For senior thesis, she did an ethnography on how Chinese international students negotiate between assimilation into American culture and staying within the Chinese social circle. Currently, she is looking at the making and effect of popular culture, including its relationship with national branding. Another stream of interest is the effect of increased smart-phone use in our contemporary life. In general, She loves discussions in material culture, iconicity, and media.

Dicky Yangzom

Dicky Yangzom is a doctoral student in Sociology at Yale University and a Junior Research Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology. Her research interests focus on the Sociology of Fashion, Consumer Culture, Material Culture, Visual Sociology, Public Sociology of Labor, Social Movements, Legal Sociology, and Social Theory. Previously she conducted fieldwork through visual ethnography on Pashmina producing nomadic tribes on the border of Tibet, China, Pakistan, and India. Dicky holds a M.A. in Fashion Studies from the City University of New York, Graduate Center; a B.S. in International Trade & Marketing with a concentration in Asia Studies; and Fashion Design from the Fashion Institution of Technology. Her most recent paper, “Clothing and Social Movements: Tibet and the Politics of Dress” is currently under review at the Journal of Social Movement Studies.