Fisher, Dana R. 1971-

views updated

Fisher, Dana R. 1971-


Born 1971. Education: Princeton University, A.B., 1993; University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.S., 1999, Ph.D., 2001.


Home—New York, NY. Office—Department of Sociology, Columbia University, 324M Fayerweather Hall, 1180 Amsterdam Ave., Mail Code 2551, New York, NY 10027. E-mail—[email protected]


Columbia University, New York, NY, assistant professor, 2002-07, associate professor of sociology, 2007—. Center for Environmental Citizenship, political director, 1993; Campaign for an Environmental Economy, project coordinator, 1994; visiting scholar, United Nations University, 1997.


Wageningen University Research Fellowship, 2000; National Science Foundation Dissertation Enhancement Award, 2000; Katherine DuPre Lumpkin Award, 2002; Columbia Earth Institute, 2002; Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement grant, 2002; Center for Global Partnership grant, 2003; Columbia University Faculty Development grant, 2004 and 2005; U.S. Forest Service grant, 2005; American Sociological Association Travel Award grant, 2006.


National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2004.

Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Global Warming and East Asia: The Domestic and International Politics of Climate Change, edited by Paul G. Harris, Routledge Press (London, England), 2003; and Ecological Modernization and Japan, edited by B.F.D. Barrett, Routledge (London, England), 2005. Contributor of articles and reviews to academic journals, including American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Sociological Forum, Social Forces, and Society and Natural Resources.


Sociology professor Dana R. Fisher is the author of Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America. In the work, Fisher traces the development of fundraising efforts by organizations such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Human Rights Campaign. Because of vast funding cuts in the 1990s, many groups were forced to close local branch offices and turn to professional clearinghouses like the Fund for Public Interest Research to handle door-to-door canvassing. "Like corporations that hire workers in India to run their call centers," Fisher wrote in the American Prospect Online, "the canvassing, phone banking, and direct mail outreach that sustains the fundraising and membership base of progressive organizations and campaigns in America were outsourced to national groups that emerged to fill the gap on the left. As word spread of this efficient and costeffective way to develop and maintain a grassroots base, national groups that had never worked at the grassroots level also decided to outsource." "Because the American left relies so heavily on paid canvassers and has developed so few organically rooted local organizations, Ms. Fisher argues, it suffers in comparison with the neighborhood- and church-based groups that conservatives have built during the last 30 years," remarked David Glenn in the Chronicle of Higher Education. "The system is indeed more efficient," Fisher noted. "Unfortunately, this type of outsourced politics increases the distance between members and the progressive national groups that claim to represent them—and has proven no match for the kind of political institutions on the right that are locally rooted and turn citizens into engaged activists."

Fisher also examines the role of a citizen in a democracy by focusing on the individuals who perform the canvassing work. According to Glenn, Fisher's "study touches on longstanding and highly contentious debates in sociology and political science: Has political and civic engagement declined in the United States, or has it simply changed? If civic engagement has in fact declined, has the decline been caused by the professionalization of nonprofit organizations or by the erosion of local political machines, or both?" Fisher conducted field interviews with 115 employees of the Fund for Public Interest Research during the summer of 2002, noting that the canvassers expressed varying levels of satisfaction with their work; some felt greatly frustrated by a complex quota system and low wages. The author "fears that many of the thousands of young activists who take canvassing jobs every year find the experience so disheartening that they give up on liberal politics altogether," Glenn noted. "Her conservative students, she says, have a much easier time finding worthwhile paid political work than do their liberal counterparts." "Few scholars have taken such a close look at the individuals involved in progressive activism and their backgrounds, motivations, and experiences," noted Library Journal contributor Theresa Kintz.



American Journal of Sociology, January, 2006, Aaron McCright, review of National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime, p. 1264.

Choice, February, 2005, R.E. O'Connor, review of National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime, p. 1094.

Chronicle of Higher Education, September 15, 2006, David Glenn, "Scorching the Grass Roots?"

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Theresa Kintz, review of Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America, p. 163.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of Activism, Inc.

SciTech Book News, September, 2004, review of National Governance and the Global Climate Change Regime, p. 50.

Utne Reader, September 21, 2006, Elizabeth Oliver, "The Activism Industry."


American Prospect Online, (September 14, 2006), Dana R. Fisher, "The Activism Industry: The Problem with the Left's Model of Outsourced Grassroots Canvassing."

BeyondChron, (November 2, 2006), Randy Shaw, "Has the Left Been Outsourced?"

Columbia University Web site, (July 1, 2007), Dana R. Fisher faculty page.

About this article

Fisher, Dana R. 1971-

Updated About content Print Article