Willa Sachs

Willa Sachs's picture
B.A. Kenyon College, 2016
M.A., Sociology, Yale University, 2022
Areas of Interest: 
Law & Social Movements; Cultural Sociology; Racial Politics; Comparative-Historical Sociology; Social Theory

Willa Sachs is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a Junior Fellow at the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology. She received her B.A. in Sociology from Kenyon College in 2016. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, where she serves as an associate editor of 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.

Sachs’ dissertation examines the development of legal consciousness within the Black Panther Party (BPP), arguing that constitutional law shaped the formation and evolution of the Party, its political goals and identity, and its mobilization strategies. She is currently working on two articles adapted from her larger dissertation project. Her first article examines the function of American constitutional thought in the ideological agenda and framing strategies of the Black Panther Party from 1966 to 1971, and in particular its role in the Party’s demand for all-Black juries.

Her second article theorizes the role of mock “people’s trials” in the protest repertoire of the BPP, in which activists symbolically convicted state actors or exonerated activists identified as political prisoners. This article argues that people’s trials offer a key demonstration of how constitutional law is “made,” mobilized, and negotiated by everyday actors in cultural fields of contestation outside of formal institutions. 

Sachs has recently published an article (with Jeffrey C. Alexander) in Cultural Sociology. This article examines the role of social movements as a mediating force between public opinion and presidential politics, using the second-wave American feminist movement as a case study.


Sachs, Willa and Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2023. “Presidential versus Civil Power: Cultural Transformation, Second-Wave Feminism, and Party Politics in the US, 1961-1989.” Cultural Sociology, Vol 17(1).