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Organizing an “Organizationless” Campaign: Suppressing and Hiding Organizations

Sat, September 1, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hynes, 103


Paralleling new information and communications technologies’ (ICTs) pervalence in social lives, recent contentious politics practices and scholarship explain organizations’ marginality and the self-organizing processes of protest networks by introducing new forms of organizers and organizing mechanisms, i.e., reduced costs, digital non-human organizers, and communication as organization. These strains of scholarship, however, suffer from a technological determinist view that considers new ICTs will automatically necessitate new organizers and organizing forms and outdate old organization-centered ways of organizing. Instead, increasing more research indicates that new ICTs have altered the context of action and allows multiple organizers and organizing forms to co-exist in the same protest network, i.e., hybrid organizing. Although a useful lens, hybrid organizing needs to address how the new context not only offers affordances but also poses constrains to organizing choices and how different organizing logics comport with each other in the same protest space. Using a case study of a campaign organized mainly by Chinese American immigrants, I illustrate that the use of a Chinese digital platform, WeChat, expanded the context of action by introducing new stakeholders—the Chinese government and bystander publics—into a US-bound campaign. Responding to multiple stakeholders, activists consciously structured the campaign in an “organizationless” manner that organizations’ presence was suppressed and hidden, but not eliminated.