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Brian Steensland

Department of Sociology, Indiana University
bsteens@indiana.edu

Brian Steensland is working on two Center projects that examine cultural conflict in the United States. In the first project, “Trends in Depictions of Moral and Cultural Contention in the U.S. Press, 1985-1997,” Steensland and Paul DiMaggio are examining press coverage of controversies over morality and values in the U.S. between 1985 and 1997, a period that spans the putative “culture wars” of the early 1990s. The project is motivated by two broad research questions: (1) how and why did the imagery of cultural conflict and polarization diffuse to become a dominant theme for understanding American politics; and (2) under what conditions is conflict over policy issues described in cultural terms as opposed to being described, for example, in terms of competing material interests or disagreements over the proper means to attain consensually defined ends. They have collected the data needed to answer the first question. Using case studies of conflicts over government funding for the arts, same-sex marriage, and biodiversity, they are midway through data collection for the second. Using media coverage from eight newspapers, they anticipate collecting approximately 50,000 articles and will analyze these data using a combination of manual and computer-based coding. In the second project, "Public Conflicts Over the Arts in Philadelphia 1965-1997," Steensland and DiMaggio are continuing their analyses of public controversies over the arts and media in one city. Together with other collaborators, they have written a working paper that contains a descriptive overview of the project’s findings, and a book chapter on the role of religion in controversies over the arts. They are now preparing a series of refereed journal articles, the first of which explores the extent to which the patterns of conflict found in Philadelphia fit expectations from the “culture wars” hypothesis and other theories of cultural controversy. Steensland received his Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton in the Spring of 2002. His broad interests concern change in post-war American political culture, with particular interests in economic inequality, religion in public life, and the apparent shift from redistributive to moral issues as a driving force in domestic politics. His dissertation examined the politics of guaranteed income policies in the 1960s and 1970s.

Princeton University Home Tel: (609) 258-5180; E-mail: artspol@princeton.edu