Mobilizing Cuisine


In this project, I am working with UCLA sociologists Ed Walker and Gabriel Rossman to study the rapidly developing industry of gourmet food trucks. We combine qualitative work with social network analysis of millions of tweets from thousands of trucks. These tweets allow us both to map the social networks among the truck (which usually reflect real world collaboration) and to directly observe political action, like tweeting links to petitions pressing for more favorable regulation.

Our first paper (published in NVSQ) examines the development and roles of trade associations in this emerging industry. We argue that trade associations are a crucial type of nonprofit association that supports innovative types of entrepreneurial action, or what might be conceptualized as social movements in the marketplace.

We have two current works in progress from this project. One shows how trade associations first spread by a process of imitation and then concatenated into a national association. The other uses position in the social network to explain which trucks are politically mobilized, as measured by membership in a trade association and by tweeting links when the industry is under acute regulatory threat.


Esparza, N., & Walker, E.T., & Rossman, G. 2014. Trade Associations and the Legitimation of Entrepreneurial Movements: Collective Action in the Emerging Gourmet Food Truck IndustryNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43:143S–162S.

Esparza, N., Rossman, G., & Walker, E.T. From Imitation to Concatenation. (work in progress).

Esparza, N., Walker, E.T., & Rossman, G. Mobilizing Cuisine. (work in progress).