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Culture, Conflict and Community: Rituals of Protest or Flairs of Competition

Working Paper #23, Fall 2002

Steven J. Tepper

This paper examines the incident of public conflict over artistic and cultural expression in 48 U.S. cities. Analysis of more than 500 cases of conflict reveals that levels of public dispute are related to several underlying structural characteristics of cities. In particular, rapid demographic shifts, especially changes in foreign-born residents, are related to higher levels of conflict. The paper also suggests that there are at least three different profiles of conflict—there are highly contentious cities, where both liberal-based and conservative-based groups are actively involved in protests; there are cities that experience cultural conflict as identity politics (liberal-based groups are most active); and those cities that practice cultural regulation (conservative-based groups are most active).

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