Ian Mullins


2018       Ph.D. in Sociology (expected) from University of California, San Diego

2014       C. Phil. in Sociology from University of California, San Diego

2010       MA in Sociology from California State University, Northridge

2005       BA in Sociology and American Studies from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities



Political Sociology, Theory, Methodology, Social Psychology, Culture, History of Social Science       



Title: Conservatism in a Time of “Fake News” and Irrelevant Truths


Committee: Isaac W. Martin (Chair), Amy Binder, Richard Biernacki, Christena Turner, and Robert Horwitz (UCSD, Communication)


Abstract: The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has raised urgent questions about the role knowledge plays in conservative politics. Scholars are turning their attention to the proliferation of “fake news” on the internet and what might be a new era of “post-truth” politics in the United States. Political sociologists suggest the possibility conservatives in the United States belong to numerous “epistemic cultures,” though none have done the long-term observational work necessary to investigate this claim. For my dissertation, I draw on four years of ethnographic research with five conservative political organizations located in San Diego and Orange County, California, to analyze how participants involved in conservative political organizations develop and habituate epistemic practices. I find that participants in conservative organizations engage in knowledge production as a secondary activity anchored in primary practical concerns that vary by type of organization. I demonstrate how people within organizations develop coherent sets of epistemic practices by acting in relation to common sets of practical problems, the formal and relational aspects of an organization (including the organization’s relation to a broader party apparatus), and within the cultural context that they produce themselves. My work illuminates how conservatives come to distrust conventional sources of information, invalidate expert knowledge, or dismiss expert knowledge as irrelevant despite viewing it as true.


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