How collective action can establish a new field

In my Burning Man research, I discussed how organizers had to establish a new field for running a temporary arts community, which included working with governmental agencies to develop applicable policies and regulations. These efforts are also crucial for other organizations.

This past week, one of my City University of New York (CUNY) colleagues at Hunter College, Howard Lune, won the ARNOVA Best Book Award for Urban Action Networks: HIV/AIDS and Community Organizing in New York City (2006, Rowman & Littlefield). I highly recommend this book for those who want to understand how community groups can engage in collective action to construct a new field of organizations and institutions. In the United States, we now seem to take the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS for granted, as many organizations and programs are devoted to these aims. But, this was not always the case – in fact, during the 1980s, both the U.S. government and medical profession were slow to recognize HIV/AIDS as a problem for the general population, and neither institutions were not prepared to deal with the outbreak of a new, not-yet-well-understood disease. Lune’s book shows how a network of activists and advocacy groups in the New York City area were crucial to establishing a new field for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Collective, coordinated, grassroots activity focused state efforts on addressing a national (and worldwide) problem.

Another co-winner for the ARNOVA book prize is The Volunteers: A Social Profile (2006, Indiana Press) by Marc Musick and John Wilson. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’m glad to see it’s now available for those of us who want to understand more about volunteerism.

P.S. An interesting instance of the interplay between scholarship and art: Lune’s book cover features an artist’s sculpture of the genetic material of the HIV virus.

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