The organization of expert activism is a problem of increasing importance for social movement organizers and scholars alike. Yet the relative invisibility of expert activists within social movements makes them difficult to systematically identify and study. This article offers two related ways forward. First, we advance a theory of “shadow mobilization” to explain the organization of expert activism in the broader context of proliferating risk and intensifying knowledge-based conflict. Second, we introduce a new methodological approach for collecting systematic data on members of this difficult-to-reach population. Findings from comparative analysis of expert activists in the environmental justice movement in Louisiana and the alternative agriculture movement in Washington reveal both important commonalities and fine-grained differences, suggesting that shadow mobilizations are strategic collective responses to cumulative risk in contemporary society.

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