Disciplined Into Hiding: Milk Banking and the “Obscured Organization”

Sarah E. Jones, Sarah J. Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Amid recent attention to nonprofit and voluntary organizing, empirical studies have largely focused on social capital functions, decision-making, and volunteer relationships, in contrast to missions or practices that are contested, controversial, or concealed. This study examines how nonprofit milk banks and online milksharing networks experience concealment in unique, unintentional ways. Using ethnographic fieldwork and discursive interviews, we analyze how Discourses of Filth, Suspicion, and (In)adequacy discipline members’ corporeality and participation in the milk banking/sharing industry such that concealment is enacted and enforced. The findings provide evidence for obscured organizations as a useful complement to hidden organizations by highlighting how organizations involved in body product exchange encounter unique symbolic, structural, and technical communication problems that bear community consequence. The results have implications not only for studying contemporary organizations, but also for theorizing hidden organizing and stigmatized membership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-546
Number of pages27
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • concealment
  • discipline
  • hidden organizing
  • milk banking
  • obscured organizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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