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From Spark to Fire: Rumor and Regimental Mutinies in the 1857 Bengal Native Army

From Spark to Fire: Rumor and Regimental Mutinies in the 1857 Bengal Native Army

September 26, 2011 -
4:15pm to 6:00pm
Event Speaker: 
Professor Hayagreeva Rao, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Event Sponsor: 
The Munro Lectureship Fund and The Lane Center
Abstract: 

Mutinies have been understudied in organization theory. As in other uprisings, the tinder of grievances in a mutiny is lit by a spark. We suggest that rumors are sparks that reduce free riding, coordination and first mover problems. We statistically analyze the mutinies of soldiers of the Bengal Native Army in 1857 India in response to the rumor that a new type of cartridges were greased with pig-fat and cow-fat, which jeopardized the religious identity of Hindu and Moslem troops. Even if no regiment actually received these new cartridges, a majority of regiments mutinied. We argue that rumors instantiate identity threats that intensify group solidarity, offset free riding and induce participation; we find that regiments mutinied at a higher rate if they were located near established Christian missions that threatened traditional religious beliefs, or were stationed near soldiers’ home communities. We propose that rumors generate common knowledge and mitigate coordination problems - demographically diverse regiments mutinied at a higher rate when located far away from their home communities. Finally, rumors arouse emotions, and as a result, ambiguous cues can be interpreted as confirmatory signals and create first movers; regiments in locales that received a disc of bread from another locale, took it to be an omen and mutinied earlier than others, and became the vanguard. We discuss the implications for future research on rumors and collective action.

Biography: 
Professor Hayagreeva Rao (Stanford Graduate School of Business) has published widely in the fields of management and sociology and studies the social and cultural causes of organizational change. In his research, he studies three sub-processes of organizational change: a) creation of new social structures, b) the transformation of existing social structures, and c) the dissolution of existing social structures. His recent work investigates the role of social movements as motors of organizational change in professional and organizational fields.
 
His research has been published in journals such as the Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal. He is also the author of "Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovation", Princeton University Press. 2009.
 
He serves as the Editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, and has been a member of the editorial boards of American Journal of Sociology and Organization Science and Academy of Management Review. He has been a Member of the Organizational Innovation and Change Panel of the National Science Foundation.
 
He is a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Science, a Fellow of the Sociological Research Association and also a Fellow of the Academy of Management.
 
His teaching specialties include leading organizational change, building customer focused cultures, and organization design. He teaches courses on these topics to MBA and executive audiences. He has consulted with, and conducted executive workshops for, organizations such as Aon Corporation, British Petroleum, CEMEX, General Electric, Hearst Corporation, IBM, Mass Mutual, James Hardie Company, Seyfarth and Shaw. Additionally, he also worked with nonprofit organizations such as the American Cancer Society and governmental organizations such as the FBI and CIA, and the intelligence community.
 
Among the awards he has received are the Sidney Levy Teaching Award from the Kellogg School of Management, and the W. Richard Scott Distinguished Award for Scholarship from the American Sociological Association.