Organizing for Resilience: Mobilization by Sierra Leonean Diaspora Communities in Response to the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis
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CitationManning, Ryann. 2017. Organizing for Resilience: Mobilization by Sierra Leonean Diaspora Communities in Response to the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe question of how social groups prepare for and respond to disasters has long been of interest to sociologists and organizational scholars. Although a catastrophe like the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak is a rare event, we face crises and challenges every day that require us to organize for resilience: to find creative ways to unearth and repurpose latent resources in order to adapt and even prosper in the face of tumult, trauma, or transformation. In this dissertation, I examine mobilization by members of Sierra Leone’s global diaspora communities to respond to the Ebola outbreak in their country of origin. Using abductive analytic techniques, I combine retrospective interviews with real-time data from diaspora organizations, online public conversations, and my own participation in the response to Ebola. I use this extreme case to ask more general organizational and sociological questions about disaster response and resilience, transnational organizing, organizing in and through virtual spaces, and the role of emotions in social mobilization.
I find that despite occupying a liminal position from which they could have minimized their exposure to the Ebola outbreak, many members of the diaspora instead formed emergent response groups and worked with established organizations to help fight Ebola. These diaspora activists and organizations pursued a diverse array of actions intended to help stop the spread of Ebola, mitigate its negative effects, and contribute to long-term recovery and rebuilding. In Chapter Two, I show that resilient organizing by members of the diaspora involved identifying and leveraging resources across boundaries of organization, sector, expertise, geographic distance, national identity, and religion. This flexible approach made possible the creative location, activation, combination, and recombination of latent resources required for resilience. In Chapter Three, I explore the emotional dynamics of social mobilization, and I find that combinations of emotions, which I call emotional chords, played a critical role in convincing individuals to take action. Once involved in the response to Ebola, diaspora activists and organizations engaged in a process of emotional modulation, by which they used meaningful cultural objects to collaboratively shape their own and others’ emotions in order to solve practical problems and facilitate further mobilization.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42061468
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