Julia Sonnevend is Associate Professor of Sociology and Communication at the New School for Social Research in New York. She has held fellowships at the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam, and the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology in New Haven. Her scholarship lies at the intersection of media studies, the sociology of culture, and international relations, and focuses on the “re-enchantment” of society, on the magical moments, qualities, technologies and artifacts of contemporary social life worldwide. Sonnevend’s work aims to show that we are far less rational in our political, social and mediated lives than we imagine ourselves to be.
Her first book, Stories Without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event (Oxford University Press, 2016), asks: how do particular news events become lasting global myths, while others fade into oblivion? Focusing on journalists covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and on subsequent retellings of the event (from Legoland reenactments to the installation of segments of the Berlin Wall in shopping malls), Sonnevend discusses how storytellers build up certain events so that people remember them for long periods of time. She also shows that the powerful myth of the fall of the Berlin Wall still shapes our debates about separation walls and fences, borders and refugees, most recently in the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.
While her first book focused on magical events in our international imagination, her next book, Charm: How Magnetic Personalities Capture Our Hearts, Minds and Politics aims to consider a magical quality in human relations. It will analyze the importance of “charm” in our social and mediated lives, with a particular interest in “charm offensives,” when political leaders achieve major goals in foreign affairs through their personal magnetism.
Sonnevend is co-editor of Education and Social Media: Toward a Digital Future (MIT Press, 2016). She is author and co-author of articles published in journals including Media, Culture & Society, International Journal of Communication, Journalism, Journalism Studies, and Columbia Journalism Review. Her work also appears in edited collections including Trump and the Media (Eds. Pablo Boczkowski and Zizi Papacharissi , MIT Press, 2018), Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture (Ed. Benjamin Peters, Princeton University Press, 2016), Iconic Power: Materiality and Meaning in Social Life (Eds. Jeffrey C. Alexander et al, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline (Eds. James Elkins et al, Routledge, 2012).
Sonnevend received her PhD in Communications from Columbia University, her Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School, and her Juris Doctorate and Master of Arts degrees in German Studies and Aesthetics from Eötvös Loránd University Budapest.
Please view her Research Matters profile for more information about Sonnevend’s work.
She tweets from: @juliasonnevend