Managing Visibilities: The Shades and Shadows of NGO Work in Repressive Contexts

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This study explores how visibilities are produced and managed, and how they transform the work of activists operating in repressive contexts. To advance emerging research, this study blends theoretical perspectives from visibility and activism research and builds on ethnographic methods and fieldwork in a non-profit organization. The contribution of the article to research at the intersection of visibility and activism is twofold: firstly, the article identifies the social and material agencies involved in the production of different dimensions of visibilities (mildly shaded and mostly shadowed). Secondly, the article shows how the three identified relational imbrications of agencies (encryption, obfuscation, and concealment) at times empower and undermine the efforts of both activists and oppressors. The findings provide novel insights concerning the (dis)empowering role of visibilities applicable to many collectives, corporations and institutions that rely on visibility management, as datafication is making it increasingly easy for behaviors to be seen.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)659-685
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: December 9, 2022.


  • Visibility management
  • Datafication
  • NGOs
  • Activism

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