Katherine Chen

Prof. Katherine K. Chen’s research specialties cover organizational studies and economic sociology.  Her award-winning book, Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event, shows how an enabling organization can support members’ efforts without succumbing to either under-organizing’s insufficient structure and coordination or over-organizing’s excessive structure and coercive control.  Additional articles on prosumption, storytelling, and communification have appeared in American Behavioral Scientist, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Qualitative Sociology, The Sociological Quarterly, and other journals.  

To understand how organizations collectively innovate (or maintain the status quo) through advocacy, Chen has examined coordination efforts among organizations that help older adults who prefer to “age in place” in their homes rather than moving to retirement or nursing homes.  She is also writing up research about innovative organizations that seek to change images of aging and strengthen bonds through relational work. 

Chen has also started studying how a growing organization, born from the democratic free school movement, communicates unfamiliar ways of organizing learning.

Chen is associate professor in sociology at The City College of New York and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.



As an academic who has labored at both private and public institutions, I have experienced the intensifying challenges confronting researchers, including securing employment and adequate resources for teaching and conducting research, disseminating findings to a broad audience, and connecting with a community of scholars. These concerns have brought me to SASE, where I started my first year as a 2017 mini-conference co-organizer. This year, I am a co-organizer of the new “Alternatives to Capitalism” research network. If elected to the Executive Council, I look forward to representing a wider range of interests at SASE. My priorities include forming a supportive, worldwide community and collectively advancing knowledge among researchers and the public.

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