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Turning Fans Into Heroes: How the Harry Potter Alliance Uses the Power of Story to Facilitate Fan Activism and Bloc Recruitment

Social Movements and Media

ISBN: 978-1-78743-098-3, eISBN: 978-1-78743-097-6

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 22 December 2017


How do you get people – particularly young people – to engage with social and political issues? Activists and academics alike have been plagued by this question for some time, and answers to it have ranged from greater organizational involvement to framing. Another possibility is meeting youth where they are at; that is, connecting youth’s existing interests in popular culture with broader social problems and issues. A group that is doing just that is the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a story-fueled nonprofit organization that turns fans into heroes. In this chapter, we trace the development of the Harry Potter fan community, the stories’ resonance with fans, and how the HPA has drawn on the community and the story for mobilization. We argue that the HPA leverages culture in two ways that are relevant for social movements and political communication scholars. The HPA is able to tap into the fan community for bloc recruitment using its ties and connections to media – in this case, the fictional story – as a point of mobilization. Additionally, the HPA is able to bloc recruit from mass society – a process they refer to as “cultural acupuncture” – by strategically connecting the story with social justice issues when cultural attention is at its peak. We conclude with a discussion of the HPA’s impact on its members and how bloc recruitment and cultural acupuncture may be relevant for other fan communities.



Bird, J. and Maher, T.V. (2017), "Turning Fans Into Heroes: How the Harry Potter Alliance Uses the Power of Story to Facilitate Fan Activism and Bloc Recruitment", Earl, J. and Rohlinger, D.A. (Ed.) Social Movements and Media (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 14), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 23-54.



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