Organizational hybridity, when organizations cross the boundaries of several social movements, benefits a range of movements. Previous research has demonstrated the positive dimensions of hybridity in feminist and antiwar movements, for example. But could such hybridity also serve to dilute movement ideologies? How exactly does hybridity shape movements and their participants? Under what conditions does hybridity aid or detract from mobilization?
In “Hybrid Activism: Social Movement Mobilization in a Multimovement Environment” (American Journal of Sociology, January 2014), Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas examine hybrid antiwar organizations in an effort to understand the mechanisms of movement hybridity. The authors gathered survey data at “all of the national or nationally coordinated antiwar protest events held in the United State between January 2007 and December 2009,”organizational data such as web content of hybrid organizations, and interview data with activists.
Heaney and Rojas argue that hybrid antiwar organizations are not only effective at mobilizing constituents, but also that in some cases, hybrid organizations are more effective than non-hybrid movement organizations. Participants who had previously been involved in non antiwar movements were more apt to join hybrid organizations than those who had not been participants in non antiwar mobilizing, for example. The scholars found that hybridity influences mobilization at both individual and organizational levels. Hybridity “help[s] people with backgrounds in other social movements to connect with the antiwar movement. Possessing hybrid identities enables organizations to serve as intermovement representatives in coalitions, to occupy central positions within networks, and to get people into the streets at antiwar demonstrations” (pg. 44-45). The authors convincingly demonstrate that hybridity was a central component of the movement’s success.
This article raises additional questions for future research. For example, how does hybridity change over the course of a long-lasting and sustained social movement? How do movements such as feminism, whose participants are historically stigmatized, benefit from hybridity? Do feminists involved in multimovement coalitions need to downplay their feminist grievances? Or may they amplify their feminist ideologies to previously non-feminist spaces? Building upon Heaney and Rojas’ research may present additional compelling findings related to hybridity. Regardless, their thought provoking article highlights that we should not underestimate the importance of hybridity to social movement organizing.