In Los Angeles, night after night, the city's salsa clubs become social arenas where hierarchies of gender, race, and class, and of nationality, citizenship, and belonging are enacted on and off the dance floor. In an ethnography filled with dramatic narratives, Cindy García describes how local salseras/os gain social status by performing an exoticized L.A.–style salsa that distances them from club practices associated with Mexicanness. Many Latinos in Los Angeles try to avoid "dancing like a Mexican," attempting to rid their dancing of techniques that might suggest that they are migrants, poor, working-class, Mexican, or undocumented. In L.A. salsa clubs, social belonging and mobility depend on subtleties of technique and movement. With a well-timed dance-floor exit or the lift of a properly tweezed eyebrow, a dancer signals affiliation not only with a distinctive salsa style but also with a particular conceptualization of latinidad.
Driven by the pressures of poverty and civil strife at home, large numbers of Central Americans came to the Los Angeles area during the 1980's. Neither purely economic migrants, though they were in search of stable work, nor official refugees, although they carried the scars of war and persecution, Guatemalans and Salvadorans were even denied the aid given to refugees such as Cubans and Vietnamese. In addition, these immigrants sought refuge in a city undergoing massive economic and demographic shifts of its own. The result was -- and is -- a complex interaction that will help to reconceptualize the migration experience.
Based on twenty years of work with the Los Angeles Central American community and filled with facts, figures, and personal narratives, Seeking Community in a Global City presents this saga from many perspectives. The authors examine the forces in Central America that sent thousands of people streaming across international borders. They discuss economic, political, and demographic changes in the Los Angeles region and the difficulties the new immigrants faced in negotiating a new, urban environment. They look at family roles, networking, work strategies, and inter-ethnic relations. But they also consider policy issues and alliances, changing expectations, shifting priorities, and the reciprocal effect of the migrants and the city on each other.
On May 8, 1959, the evening news shocked Los Angeles residents, who saw LA County sheriffs carrying a Mexican American woman from her home in Chavez Ravine not far from downtown. Immediately afterward, the house was bulldozed to the ground. This violent act was the last step in the forced eviction of 3,500 families from the unique hilltop barrio that in 1962 became the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
John H. M. Laslett offers a new interpretation of the Chavez Ravine tragedy, paying special attention to the early history of the barrio, the reform of Los Angeles's destructive urban renewal policies, and the influence of the evictions on the collective memory of the Mexican American community.
In addition to examining the political decisions made by power brokers at city hall, Shameful Victory argues that the tragedy exerted a much greater influence on the history of the Los Angeles civil rights movement than has hitherto been appreciated. The author also sheds fresh light on how the community grew, on the experience of individual home owners who were evicted from the barrio, and on the influence that the event had on the development of recent Chicano/a popular music, drama, and literature.
A gritty, smoke-filled, and boozy account of musician Tom Waits’s formative decade in Los Angeles.
Song Noir examines the formative first decade of Tom Waits’s career, when he lived, wrote, and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles: from his soft, folk-inflected debut, Closing Time in 1973, to the abrasive, surreal Swordfishtrombones in 1983. Starting his songwriting career in the seventies, Waits absorbed Los Angeles’s wealth of cultural influences. Combining the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, he explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes. Waits mined a rich seam of the city’s low-life locations and characters, letting the place feed his dark imagination. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, Waits turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic, a vision of Los Angeles as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations.
Los Angeles. A city that is synonymous with celebrity and mass-market culture, is also, according to David James, synonymous with social alienation and dispersal. In the communities of Los Angeles, artists, cultural institutions and activities exist in ways that are often concealed from sight, obscured by the powerful presence of Hollywood and its machinations. In this significant collection of original essays, The Sons and Daughters of Los reconstructs the city of Los Angeles with new cultural connections. Explored here are the communities that offer alternatives to the picture of L..A. as a conglomeration of studios and mass media. Each essay examines a particular piece of, or place in, Los Angeles cultural life: from the Beyond Baroque Poetry Foundation, the Woman's Building, to Highways, and LACE, as well as the achievements of these grassroots initiatives. Also included is critical commentary on important artists, including Harry Gamboa, Jr., and others whose work have done much to shape popular culture in L.A. The cumulative effect of reading this book is to see a very different city take shape, one whose cultural landscape is far more innovative and reflective of the diversity of the city's people than mainstream notions of it suggest. The Sons and Daughters of Los offers a substantive and complicated picture of the way culture plays itself it out on the smallest scale—in one of the largest metropolises on earth—contributing to a richer, more textured understanding of the vibrancy of urban life and art.
Named a Best Art Book of 2017 by the New York Times and Artforum
In South of Pico Kellie Jones explores how the artists in Los Angeles's black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.'s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Noah Purifoy, and Senga Nengudi spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.'s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility. Jones characterizes their works as modern migration narratives that look to the past to consider real and imagined futures. She also attends to these artists' relationships with gallery and museum culture and the establishment of black-owned arts spaces. With South of Pico, Jones expands the understanding of the histories of black arts and creativity in Los Angeles and beyond.
Space of Detention is a powerful ethnographic account and spatial analysis of the “transnational gang crisis” between the United States and El Salvador. Elana Zilberg seeks to understand how this phenomenon became an issue of central concern for national and regional security, and how La Mara Salvatrucha, a gang founded by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles, came to symbolize the “gang crime–terrorism continuum.” She follows Salvadoran immigrants raised in Los Angeles, who identify as—or are alleged to be—gang members and who are deported back to El Salvador after their incarceration in the United States. Analyzing zero-tolerance gang-abatement strategies in both countries, Zilberg shows that these measures help to produce the very transnational violence and undocumented migration that they are intended to suppress. She argues that the contemporary fixation with Latino immigrant and Salvadoran street gangs, while in part a product of media hype, must also be understood in relation to the longer history of U.S. involvement in Central America, the processes of neoliberalism and globalization, and the intersection of immigration, criminal, and antiterrorist law. These forces combine to produce what Zilberg terms “neoliberal securityscapes.”
Winner of the 2020 Robert E. Park Award for Best Book from the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association
Winner of the 2020 Distinguished Contribution to Research Award from the Latino/a Section of the American Sociological Association
Honorable Mention for the 2020 Thomas and Znaniecki Award from the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association
A quarter of young adults in the U.S. today are the children of immigrants, and Latinos are the largest minority group. In Stagnant Dreamers, sociologist and social policy expert María Rendón follows 42 young men from two high-poverty Los Angeles neighborhoods as they transition into adulthood. Based on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations with them and their immigrant parents, Stagnant Dreamers describes the challenges they face coming of age in the inner city and accessing higher education and good jobs, and demonstrates how family-based social ties and community institutions can serve as buffers against neighborhood violence, chronic poverty, incarceration, and other negative outcomes.
Neighborhoods in East and South Central Los Angeles were sites of acute gang violence that peaked in the 1990s, shattering any romantic notions of American life held by the immigrant parents. Yet, Rendón finds that their children are generally optimistic about their life chances and determined to make good on their parents’ sacrifices. Most are strongly oriented towards work. But despite high rates of employment, most earn modest wages and rely on kinship networks for labor market connections. Those who made social connections outside of their family and neighborhood contexts, more often found higher quality jobs. However, a middle-class lifestyle remains elusive for most, even for college graduates.
Rendón debunks fears of downward assimilation among second-generation Latinos, noting that most of her subjects were employed and many had gone on to college. She questions the ability of institutions of higher education to fully integrate low-income students of color. She shares the story of one Ivy League college graduate who finds himself working in the same low-wage jobs as his parents and peers who did not attend college. Ironically, students who leave their neighborhoods to pursue higher education are often the most exposed to racism, discrimination, and classism.
Rendón demonstrates the importance of social supports in helping second-generation immigrant youth succeed. To further the integration of second-generation Latinos, she suggests investing in community organizations, combating criminalization of Latino youth, and fully integrating them into higher education institutions. Stagnant Dreamers presents a realistic yet hopeful account of how the Latino second generation is attempting to realize its vision of the American dream.
Jesse Lee Kercheval
plus many more
Witty, sexy, gritty, outrageous, emotional, hilarious, honest, courageous. What do these words describe? A growing movement in American literary circles: Stand Up Poetry.
Over twenty years ago, Charles Harper Webb discovered a vibrant and invigorating poetry scene in southern California. Featuring some of America's best contemporary poets, this scene, according to Webb, “showed insight, imagination, craft, philosophical depth, but most of all, it was funny, and it was fun.” Stand Up Poetry: The Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond (1990) was the result of Webb's enthusiasm for this poetic genre.
A decade later, the popularity of performance poetry, poetry slams, and poetry readings is on the rise, and Webb has expanded his anthology to include a greater sampling of poets from across the country. From Charles Bukowski to Billy Collins and Allison Joseph, the poets included in this collection are popular and emerging, classical and experimental, young and old; yet all exhibit the characteristics so important to Stand Up Poetry—humor, performability, accessibility, individuality. Most important, these poems are enjoyable when read silently or aloud, on the page or on the stage.
Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology is at its core a celebration of poetry offering readers a wonderful lesson in the power of words to entertain and inspire.
Stardust Monuments spotlights the enduring efforts to memorialize and canonize the history and meaning of Hollywood and American film culture. In this engaging analysis, Alison Trope explores the tensions between art and commerce as they intersect in a range of nonprofit and for-profit institutions and products. An insightful tour of Hollywood’s past, present, and future, Stardust Monuments examines the establishment of film libraries and museums beginning in the mid 1930s, the many failed attempts to open a Hollywood museum ranging from the 1960s to today, and the more successful recent corporate efforts to use Hollywood’s past in theme restaurants and parks, classic movie channels, and DVD boxed sets. This fascinating narrative details the ongoing struggle to champion and codify Hollywood’s legacy, a struggle engaged in by Hollywood stars and corporate executives, as well as memorabilia collectors and users of IMDb.
Barbara Myerhoff's groundbreaking work in reflexivity and narrative ethnography broke with tradition by focusing not on the raw ethnographic data, but on her interaction with those she studied. Myerhoff's unfinished projects, including her final talks on storytelling, ritual, and the "culture of aging and Yiddishkeit," offer a magisterial summary of her life's work.
"The beauty of Stories as Equipment for Living is the quality of being a compilation of rescued fragments, bits and pieces of a great master's writing and thinking that were coming towards synthesis but had never reached a finished form prior to her death. This collection is an examination of the place of narrative in human life, the synthetic nature of culture and the constant search for visibility particularly by those relegated for one reason or another to the margins. A thought-provoking book worthy of extended reflection."
---Jack Kugelmass, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Jewish Studies, University of Florida
"Stories as Equipment for Living achieves a nice balance between preserving Myerhoff's work in its original form and reconstructed contexts, but presenting it in a manner relevant to readers a generation after her death. The book documents Myerhoff's growing involvement with Jewish culture, the actual process of anthropological work through field notes, and the picture of how she always was bouncing the fine details of this combined professional and personal venture off the 'big questions' of anthropology in its broadest sense."
---Harvey E. Goldberg, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Israel
"These essays capture the rhythm of Barbara Myerhoff's words and her vivid and distinctive train of thought, bringing the reader into the classroom of one of anthropology's finest lecturers. As an anthropologist with a poet's gift for language, she utilizes the tools of ethnography and extraordinary powers of observation---a remarkable 'ethnographic eye'---to explore the outward expressions and inner lives of the Fairfax neighborhood of L.A. These stories are not only glorious introductions to the study of culture, but provide in their revelations a reason for studying it. They are required reading for anyone passionate to know what an anthropologist can teach us about communities and ultimately about ourselves."
---Steve Zeitlin, Director, City Lore: The New York Center for Urban Folk Culture
"Master of the third voice, the voice of collaboration, Myerhoff is at once a consummate listener and inspired storyteller. This book offers a rare and luminous opening into the working process and wisdom of one of the great anthropologists of the twentieth century."
---Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Professor of Performance Studies at New York University and coauthor of They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust
"Myerhoff and her collaborators have given her 'Hasidim,' her disciples old and new, a final and precious gift."
---Jonathan Boyarin, The Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas and author of Thinking in Jewish
Barbara Myerhoff was a renowned anthropologist who did pioneering work in gerontology, Jewish studies, folklore, and narrative anthropology. She is best known for her ethnography of and personal involvement with a community of elderly immigrant Jews in California. Her writings and lectures have had an enormous impact on all of these areas of study, and her books are widely celebrated, especially Number Our Days, whose companion documentary film won an Academy Award.
Marc Kaminsky is a psychotherapist, a poet, a writer, and the former codirector of the Institute on Humanities, Arts and Aging of the Brookdale Center on Aging.
Mark Weiss is a writer, an editor, a translator, and a poet; his books include the widely praised Across the Line/Al Otro Lado.
Deena Metzger is a novelist, a poet, and the founding codirector (with Marc Kaminsky) of the Myerhoff Center.
Thomas R. Cole is the Beth and Toby Grossman Professor and Director of the McGovern Center for Health, Humanities, and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and a Professor of Humanities in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University; his expertise lies in the history of aging and humanistic gerontology.
Sometime near the start of the 1990s, the future became a place of national decline. The United States had entered a period of great anxiety fueled by the shrinking of the white middle class, the increasingly visible misery of poor urban blacks, and the mass immigration of nonwhites. Perhaps more than any other event marking the passage through these dark years, the 1992 Los Angeles riots have sparked imaginative and critical works reacting to this profound pessimism. Focusing on a wide range of these creative works, Min Hyoung Song shows how the L.A. riots have become a cultural-literary event—an important reference and resource for imagining the social problems plaguing the United States and its possible futures.
Song considers works that address the riots and often the traumatic place of the Korean American community within them: the independent documentary Sa-I-Gu (Korean for April 29, the date the riots began), Chang-rae Lee’s novel Native Speaker, the commercial film Strange Days, and the experimental drama of Anna Deavere Smith, among many others. He describes how cultural producers have used the riots to examine the narrative of national decline, manipulating language and visual elements, borrowing and refashioning familiar tropes, and, perhaps most significantly, repeatedly turning to metaphors of bodily suffering to convey a sense of an unraveling social fabric. Song argues that these aesthetic experiments offer ways of revisiting the traumas of the past in order to imagine more survivable futures.
The history of medicine is much more than the story of doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Seeking to understand the patient’s perspective, historians scour the archives, searching for rare personal accounts. Bringing together a trove of more than 400 family letters by Charles Dwight Willard, Suffering in the Land of Sunshine provides a unique window into the experience of sickness.
A Los Angeles civic leader at the turn of the twentieth century, Willard is well known to historians of the West, but exclusively for his public life as a booster and reformer. Willard’s evocative story offers fresh insights into several critical issues, including how concepts of gender, class, and race shape patients’ representations of their illness, how expectations of cure affect the illness experience, how different cultures constrain the coping strategies of the sick, and why robust health is such an exalted value in certain societies.
On a typical weekday, men of the Beverly-La Brea Orthodox community wake up early, beginning their day with Talmud reading and prayer at 5:45am, before joining Los Angeles’ traffic. Those who work “Jewish jobs”—teachers, kosher supervisors, or rabbis—will stay enmeshed in the Orthodox world throughout the workday. But even for the majority of men who spend their days in the world of gentiles, religious life constantly reasserts itself. Neighborhood fixtures like Jewish schools and synagogues are always after more involvement; evening classes and prayers pull them in; the streets themselves seem to remind them of who they are. And so the week goes, culminating as the sabbatical observances on Friday afternoon stretch into Saturday evening. Life in this community, as Iddo Tavory describes it, is palpably thick with the twin pulls of observance and sociality.
In Summoned, Tavory takes readers to the heart of the exhilarating—at times exhausting—life of the Beverly-La Brea Orthodox community. Just blocks from West Hollywood’s nightlife, the Orthodox community thrives next to the impure sights, sounds, and smells they encounter every day. But to sustain this life, as Tavory shows, is not simply a moral decision they make. To be Orthodox is to be constantly called into being. People are reminded of who they are as they are called upon by organizations, prayer quorums, the nods of strangers, whiffs of unkosher food floating through the street, or the rarer Anti-Semitic remarks. Again and again, they find themselves summoned both into social life and into their identity as Orthodox Jews. At the close of Tavory’s fascinating ethnography, we come away with a better understanding of the dynamics of social worlds, identity, interaction and self—not only in Beverly-La Brea, but in society at large.