Out from the shadows? Voluntary organisations and the assembled state
© The Author(s) 2019. As literature on the ‘shadow state’ shows, the voluntary sector has long served as a necessary conduit through which states orchestrate the governance of various populations. However, relatively little is known about the active role that voluntary organisations play in shaping and mobilising the capacities of the state to advance their own projects and interests. We draw out aspects of post-structural theories of the state, and particularly assemblage thinking, that provide the conceptual and analytical tools with which to explore how voluntary organisations may exceed their common positioning as co-opted by, and subservient to, the state. Through empirical research on homelessness policy development in Australia, we show how locally embedded voluntary organisations in Australia and the United States acted strategically and engaged transnationally – through material practices and multi-sited labours – to create opportunities to shape formal state agenda at national and sub-national levels. The activities and influence of these voluntary organisations are illustrative of the assembled nature of state capacity.