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Title: Conservatives and the politics of art, 1950-88
Author: Heath, Karen Patricia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 8421
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis offers a new policy history of the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal agency responsible for providing grants to artists and arts organisations in the United States. It focuses in particular on the development of conservative perspectives on federal arts funding from the 1950s to the 1980s, and hence, illuminates the broader evolution of conservative political power, especially its limits. The most familiar narrative holds that the Endowment found itself caught up in the Culture Wars of the late 1980s when Christian right groups objected to certain federal grants, particularly to Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and Robert Mapplethorpe's Self-Portrait with Whip. This thesis, however, uncovers the older origins of conservative opposition to state support for the arts, analyses conservative conceptions of art, and illuminates the limited federal role the right sought to secure in the arts in the post-war period. Numerous studies have analysed the meanings and origins of the Culture Wars, but until now, scholars had not examined conservative approaches to federal arts politics in a historical sense. Historians have generally been too interested in explaining change to the detriment of examining continuity, but this approach under-emphasises the long-term tensions that underlie seemingly sudden political eruptions. This work also offers a deep account of the conservative movement and the arts world, an area that has so far been almost completely ignored by scholars, even though a focus on marginalised players is essential to understanding the limits of conservatism. In a general sense then, this thesis evaluates the range and diversity of the conservative movement and illuminates the overall odyssey of the right in modern America. In so doing, it provides a new insight into the ways we periodise political history and also invites a broader view of how we understand politics itself.
Supervisor: Davies, Gareth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Conservatism--United States--History--20th century ; Federal aid to the arts--United States--History--20th century ; Art and state--United States--History--20th century ; United States--Politics and government--20th century ; United States--Intellectual life--20th century