I broadly identify myself as a scholar of twentieth century political and cultural U.S. history with a more specific focus on post-WWII America. My current and future research interests center on the relationship between government policies, politics, and American media culture and the ways in which politicians attempt to shape and respond to cultural trends. These interests lead me to investigate questions of nationalism, policymaking, popular culture, race, and political culture. While my primary source research focuses on events within the United States, I am continually attentive to the ways trends in the nation interact with those in other parts of the world. I situate my work within the literature of twentieth century U.S. history, violence, the Cold War, U.S. political history, U.S. cultural history, recent race relations in America, and post-1945 history. Ultimately, my scholarship answers questions about how and why changes in the political and cultural realms occurred in the recent past and how those realms connect to one another.
In the Crucible of Violence: The Remaking of American Political Culture in the 1960s and 1970s
My manuscript examines these issues in relation to violence during the 1960s and 1970s. It explains how contradictory perceptions of violence remade U.S. political culture and led to a newly divided and disillusioned American populace at this time. Through a series of focused readings, I look at several types of violence, including: antiwar, criminal, film, state, and wartime violence. Combining the methods of cultural and political history, these readings examine how politicians and members of the American public reacted to each of these types of violence using sources ranging from internal government papers, presidential commission papers, and constituent letters to television newscasts, popular press stories, films, and directors’ papers. The public and politicians aggregated these myriad kinds of bloodshed into a larger problem of violence. I argue that the responses to the larger problem developed into two new, heated debates about: 1) how the government should respond to the violence plaguing the nation and 2) how rising violence fit with the many disputants’ views of U.S. political ideals. Extra- and illegal violence viscerally undermined the lingering, powerful ideology that the United States was a land of equality and democracy for many “middle Americans,” while others thought the violence of the state was the more acute violation of American ideals. Because the justification or eradication of violence seemed so consequential for the nation’s future, people with opposing viewpoints increasingly became intolerant of each other’s positions and even of their counterparts’ political participation, a significant shift in U.S. political culture. Ultimately, these simultaneous debates broke down any lingering assumptions of a Cold War consensus and laid the foundations for the United States’ modern, divisive political landscape. This project provides new insight into the constitutive role violence plays in shaping American society and political culture, and in precipitating the transformations that have taken place in the second half of the twentieth century.