The New School for Social Research

  • Faculty

    Deva Woodly

    Assistant Professor of Politics

    The Power and Passion of Discourse

    Drawing from political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology, Deva Woodly emphasizes, “I’m a heterodox thinker. My work is interdisciplinary in and of itself.” She aims to move away from the formality of creating an interdisciplinary educational experience and instead naturally and effortlessly expose students to the whole breadth of sources. As she frees herself from traditional siloed thinking, she encourages her students to do the same and strive for rigor as the ultimate standard.

    When people talk, Deva Woodly listens, and not just to individuals, but to groups, too. She analyzes how people articulate their own situations, how they see the world, and how these discourses circulate online. The examination of the discourses of ordinary people reveals how their words and ideas affect the political sphere and shape our views of what is possible.

    The cornerstone of Woodly’s work is the question of how individuals come to view their place in various groups and how these groups can mobilize into effective social movements. Through her research, she has tracked how movements since the late 20th century have used blogs and social media to create spaces for self- articulation, frame messages to the wider world, and spur individuals to action.

    Woodly is quick to note that social media is not a panacea, but it has been a useful tool for movements savvy enough to realize that it is a dynamic means of communication rather than a substitute for old-fashioned face-to-face organizing. Ultimately, Woodly wants her work to help people understand how powerful they are and how to use that power to do good.

    Passionate students with a keen interest in a particular field or area of study excite Woodly. As a scholar who combines empirical and theoretical methods in her own work, she encourages her students to do the same, by exposing them to the thinkers or data that will add another dimension to their work. Woodly feels that this combination is the very definition of praxis. Interested in knowledge for its uses, she hopes theory and data will help students develop their creative problem solving capacities and lead them to new kinds of meaning and social change.

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