Steven Dubin was a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Purchase College, State University of New York, where he taught for 19 years; Professor Emeritus of Arts Administration at Teachers College, Columbia University (2005 - 2021), and a Research Affiliate of Columbia’s Institute of African Studies. He was a founding member and director of the Media, Society, and the Arts Program at Purchase (now Media Studies). Professor Dubin received his Masters and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and did postdoctoral work at both the University of Chicago and Yale University. Raised in a working-class, multi-generational household in the Midwest (Kansas City, Missouri), in which his maternal grandparents as well as his father were immigrants, Steven was the first in his family to receive a college education.
Consistent throughout his professional career has been his interest in examining the interplay between the arts, ideology and power; the tension between creative freedom and social control; organizational features that either expedite or impede creative activity; the arts as a vehicle of expression for otherwise socially marginalized people; and the quest for social equity through symbolic expression. Over time his interests expanded globally as well as topically to include the culture and politics of Southern Africa, cultural studies, visual culture, museum studies, material culture studies, mass media, and collective memory.
After receiving a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship to South Africa in 2003, he visited Southern Africa — Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa — multiple times. South Africa became an incredibly fertile research site for him and a beloved second home. He was also an avid collector of African art and photography.
Steven Dubin was the author of six books: Bureaucratizing the Muse: Public Funds and the Cultural Worker (1987); Arresting Images: Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions (1992); Displays of Power: Memory and Amnesia in the American Museum (1999); Transforming Museums: Mounting Queen Victoria in a Democratic South Africa (2006); Bronzeville Nights: On the Town in Chicago's Black Metropolis (2021); and Spearheading Debate: Culture Wars and Uneasy Truces (2021).
He acknowledged that his “career defies easy categorization,” and that he “came from the most unlikely of backgrounds” to have accomplished what he did in his life.