Associate Professor of Sociology, Tufts University
Department of Sociology
Medford, MA 02155
Areas of Expertise & Civic InvolvementsSobieraj is an expert in American political discourse whose body of research focuses on political voice and visibility in the United States. She has conducted extensive research on marginalized voices, such as those of activists during presidential campaigns, as well as on voices that are amplified, such as those of inflammatory political opinion hosts on talk radio and cable news analysis programs. Her current work examines attacks against women online and the ways this harassment shapes their involvement in public political discourse. She is a member of the research network for the National Institute for Civil Discourse.
The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility (with Jeffrey M. Berry) (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Scrutinizes political speech that attempts to provoke emotional responses from the audience (e.g., anger, fear, and moral indignation) via rhetorical tactics such as ad hominem attacks, slippery slope argumentation, and misrepresentative exaggeration; explores the dramatic increase in outrage-based political content across multiple media platforms, most prominently television, talk radio, and political blogs.
Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (New York University Press, 2011).
Shows that a broad array of activism emerges in the wake of presidential campaigns, most of which focuses on shaping political discourse via the mainstream new media; argues that media-centered mobilizations prove largely ineffective, generate considerable organizational costs, and come at the expense of other political activities.
"Reporting Conventions: Activists, Journalists, and the Thorny Struggle for Political Visibility" Social Problems 57, no. 4 (2010): 505-528.
Challenges Gitlin’s (1980) classic work that argues that activists can become news only by submitting to the “implicit rules of news-making,” by arguing that when doing so, activists fail to see a second set of rules that journalists use when covering political outsiders; examines how activist attempts to conform to the rules in place for routine political reporting regularly sabotage their success with news workers by inadvertently violating the rules in place for activists.
Sarah Sobieraj's research on angry political rhetoric discussed in Maddie Orzeske (with Jeffrey M. Berry), "Professors Examine Outrageous Political Speech in Current Election Cycle," Tufts Daily, February 19, 2016.