Presenter: Jeff Sheng
Secrets and Ties: The Creation and Maintenance of Underground Social Movements
This article draws on research in social psychology, group behavior, and organizational studies to develop a theory about the role of secrecy in the formation and maintenance of underground social movements. In particular, I introduce two concepts, “hidden distinctiveness” and “selective visibility”, in which individuals develop strong ties due to the secretive nature of their social movement activity, and where secrecy within the group becomes a resource for social movement strength. I rely on a ten-year qualitative case study of underground social movement activity among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members in the United States military to uncover four distinct phases in underground social movement mobilization: individual grievances, dyad creation, hidden networks, and movement emergence. The data consists of 60 in-depth qualitative interviews and ethnographic observations of over 100 U.S. military service members during the period of 2009-2019. The paper also highlights how technology and social media have augmented the possibilities for such organizational forms in current society and suggests avenues for further underground social movements research.