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Hybrid activist collectives: reframing mothers’ environmental and caring labour

Kelly Dombroski (Department of Geography, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 12 September 2016




The purpose of this paper is to use a case study of an online parenting forum to theorise how mothers’ everyday environmental and caring labour is a form of environmental and social activism in the home, that while not organised as such, is still collectivised in a “hybrid activist collective”.


Using ethnographic data and content analysis from an online parenting forum for the nappy-free infant hygiene practice known as “elimination communication”, the author compares the matters of key concern arising for this group of mothers with economic activist concerns as identified by Gibson-Graham et al. (2013) in their community economies work.


The paper finds a high degree of resonance between the key concerns of the elimination communication forum members with the key concerns of community economies. Furthermore, the author identifies the components of what might comprise a “hybrid activist collective” of mothers and others undertaking direct action for environmental and social change.

Social implications

Mothers and others acting for social and environmental change through domestic practices should be recognised for their important environmental and caring labour.


The paper proposes the “hybrid activist collective” as a way of understanding the human and non-human elements that gather together to act for environmental and social change in a collectivised, but not formally organised manner.



The author owes a huge thank to Jenny Cameron for invaluable feedback on an early draft. Thanks due also to Katherine Gibson and Gerda Roelvink for guiding the author through writing up early versions of these ideas in the author’s PhD thesis. Thanks to Mona-Lynn Courteau for editorial assistance. Thanks to Richard White for encouragement, anonymous reviewers for refinement, and Gradon Diprose for a number of excellent suggestions. And finally, thanks to members of the OZNappyfree forum (and their extended collectives!) and the author’s three children for prompting, enabling and contributing to this research.


Dombroski, K. (2016), "Hybrid activist collectives: reframing mothers’ environmental and caring labour", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 9/10, pp. 629-646.



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