Mobilizing Young Scholars: 25 Years of Opportunity

BY Sarah Gaby

When I was asked to write about an article from Mobilization that impacted my career, I struggled. It seemed hard to pick just one influential piece, especially since the biggest influence of the journal on my career cannot be summed up by a single article. I started reading articles from Mobilization my first year of graduate school. At the time, I was unsure how I would frame my interest in youth civic and political participation and whether and how social movements would play a role. My early reading of highly cited articles by well-known scholars like Sarah Soule, Doug McAdam, and Jackie Smith initiated my deep commitment to studying and understanding social movements. And, while useful for various reasons, it was not my reading of the journal that I found most impactful, but rather the goal I set for myself to publish in Mobilization, which was both motivating and helped guide my studies.

Aside from the motivation generated from setting this goal, I have seen tangible impact from the work I published in Mobilization. I’ve had several scholars mention my published piece at conferences and its publication intersected with opportunities to engage in public sociology. Between that and the opportunity to present my work at the Mobilization conference in San Diego, my reflection on the impact of the journal on my career is broader than a single article and, I believe, extends beyond my own experience. In thinking about writing this piece, I concluded that a major impact of Mobilization is that it supports and uplifts junior scholars in a way that I wanted to address to celebrate these 25 years of existence.

Mobilization provides a touchstone for understanding the field of social movements, what scholars are exploring, and what questions need answering. The commitment of the editors to publishing impactful work with clear contributions to the field generate opportunities for graduate students and scholars interested in working in social movements to establish their understanding and navigate their own position in relationship to the field.

My instinct that the journal offers an important pathway to junior scholars proved true as I explored the Mobilization website. The section entitled “Top Articles” lists 5 pieces. In that listing, three of the articles are written by graduate student or postdoctoral scholars as the lead authors. Further, exploring the current issue on the website extends this finding. Of the 7 articles published in that issue, 2 were written by postdoctoral scholars, one by a teaching professor, and the remaining 4 all had assistant professors (mostly early career) in their author listings.

To generate further evidence for my claim, I searched Google Scholar for all articles in the journal published in its first 5 years of existence (1999-2001). I found that the second most cited article included a junior scholar at the time in his first year as an assistant professor. That article currently has 673 citations. Many of the top cited articles from this period were written by early careers scholars and likely influence the academic trajectory of the authors. James Kitts, for instance, wrote the influential article “Mobilizing in Black Boxes: Social Networks and Participation in Social Movement Organizations” while completing his Ph.D. Today that article, published in 2000, has 238 citations, making it the 10th most cited article from these early years. Further, at least 7 of the 20 most cited articles from this period were written by junior scholars, many of whom were Ph.D. students or first year assistant professors.

The Mobilization conference represents another critical way the journal has increased its reach and support of junior scholars. The conference offers intimacy, which supports opportunities for networking in meaningful ways. In addition, there are accessible opportunities for panel participation for graduate students and junior scholars who might otherwise not have a straightforward pathway to that kind of public presentation and opportunity for feedback from top scholars. I think the conference signals another way that the journal seeks to promote the field and junior scholars in particular, who attend to workshop articles they often hope will one day land in Mobilization.

I want to congratulate Mobilization on turning 25 and commend Hank Johnston and the editors of the last two and a half decades on their commitment to promoting scholarship in social movements and to uplifting junior scholars. Relatedly, I’d like to encourage graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and early career faculty to continue to send in submissions to both the conference and the journal. It’s this group of early scholars who will boost their careers with these pieces while simultaneously generating the impactful work to be written about on the 50thanniversary.


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