Graffiti is as ubiquitous as telephone poles in America's cities; it is as old as the earliest civilizations. The most public medium in the country today, graffiti can signal territory, love, or liberation. Ironically, graffiti is understood by only a fraction of those who encounter it. Usually read as a sign of urban decay and as a loss of control over the physical environment, graffiti has become one of the most potent cultural languages of our age. Wallbangin' is an unprecedented, in-depth look at this phenomenon as it is embodied in the neighborhoods of one of its epicenters, Los Angeles.
Anthropologist Susan Phillips enters the lives of the African-American and Chicano gang members to write a comprehensive guide to their symbolic and visual expression. She not only decodes the graffiti—explaining how, for instance, gang boundaries are visually delimited and how "memorial" graffiti functions—but she also places it in the context of the changing urban landscapes within the city. Graffiti, she argues, is inextricably linked to political change, to race, and to art, and she demonstrates how those connections are played out in contemporary L.A. Wallbangin' is, on this level, an iconography of street imagery. But it is also a very personal narrative about entering the world of L.A. street gangs—a world of pride, enemies, affirmation, and humanity where gang members use graffiti to redefine their social and political position in society.
To many outsiders, graffiti is cryptic, senseless scribbling. But Phillips explains it as an ingenious and creative solution to the disenfranchisement felt by those who produce it. With personal narratives, provocative photography, and contemporary voices, Wallbangin' unlocks the mysteries behind street-level ideologies and their visual manifestations.
The Mexican American woman zoot suiter, or pachuca, often wore a V-neck sweater or a long, broad-shouldered coat, a knee-length pleated skirt, fishnet stockings or bobby socks, platform heels or saddle shoes, dark lipstick, and a bouffant. Or she donned the same style of zoot suit that her male counterparts wore. With their striking attire, pachucos and pachucas represented a new generation of Mexican American youth, which arrived on the public scene in the 1940s. Yet while pachucos have often been the subject of literature, visual art, and scholarship, The Woman in the Zoot Suit is the first book focused on pachucas.
Two events in wartime Los Angeles thrust young Mexican American zoot suiters into the media spotlight. In the Sleepy Lagoon incident, a man was murdered during a mass brawl in August 1942. Twenty-two young men, all but one of Mexican descent, were tried and convicted of the crime. In the Zoot Suit Riots of June 1943, white servicemen attacked young zoot suiters, particularly Mexican Americans, throughout Los Angeles. The Chicano movement of the 1960s–1980s cast these events as key moments in the political awakening of Mexican Americans and pachucos as exemplars of Chicano identity, resistance, and style. While pachucas and other Mexican American women figured in the two incidents, they were barely acknowledged in later Chicano movement narratives. Catherine S. Ramírez draws on interviews she conducted with Mexican American women who came of age in Los Angeles in the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s as she recovers the neglected stories of pachucas. Investigating their relative absence in scholarly and artistic works, she argues that both wartime U.S. culture and the Chicano movement rejected pachucas because they threatened traditional gender roles. Ramírez reveals how pachucas challenged dominant notions of Mexican American and Chicano identity, how feminists have reinterpreted la pachuca, and how attention to an overlooked figure can disclose much about history making, nationalism, and resistant identities.
Los Angeles is a city of delicate racial and ethnic balance. As evidenced by the 1965 Watts violence, the 1992 Rodney King riots, and this year's award-winning film Crash, the city's myriad racial groups coexist uneasily together, often on the brink of confrontation. In fact, Los Angeles is highly segregated, with racial and ethnic groups clustered in homogeneous neighborhoods. These residential groupings have profound effects on the economic well-being and quality of life of residents, dictating which jobs they can access, which social networks they can tap in to, and which schools they attend. In Won't You Be My Neighbor?, sociologist Camille Zubrinsky Charles explores how modern racial attitudes shape and are shaped by the places in which people live. Using in-depth survey data and information from focus groups with members of L.A.'s largest racial and ethnic groups, Won't You Be My Neighbor? explores why Los Angeles remains a segregated city. Charles finds that people of all backgrounds prefer both racial integration and a critical mass of same-race neighbors. When asked to reveal their preferred level of racial integration, people of all races show a clear and consistent order of preference, with whites considered the most highly desired neighbors and blacks the least desirable. This is even true among recent immigrants who have little experience with American race relations. Charles finds that these preferences, which are driven primarily by racial prejudice and minority-group fears of white hostility, taken together with financial considerations, strongly affect people's decisions about where they live. Still, Charles offers reasons for optimism: over time and with increased exposure to other racial and ethnic groups, people show an increased willingness to live with neighbors of other races. In a racially and ethnically diverse city, segregated neighborhoods can foster distrust, reinforce stereotypes, and agitate inter-group tensions. Won't You Be My Neighbor? zeroes in on segregated neighborhoods to provide a compelling examination of the way contemporary racial attitudes shape, and are shaped by, the places where we live.
The heart of Hollywood’s star-studded film industry for more than a century, Los Angeles and its abundant and ever-changing locales—from the Santa Monica Pier to the infamous and now-defunct Ambassador Hotel—have set the scene for a wide variety of cinematic treasures, from Chinatown to Forrest Gump, Falling Down to the coming-of-age classic Boyz n The Hood. This volume marks an engaging citywide tour of the many films shot on location in this birthplace of cinema and the screen spectacle.
World Film Locations: Los Angeles pairs fifty incisive synopses of carefully chosen film scenes—both famous and lesser-known—with an accompanying array of evocative full-color film stills, demonstrating how motion pictures have contributed to the multifarious role of the city in our collective consciousness, as well as how key cinematic moments reveal aspects of its life and culture that are otherwise largely hidden from view. Insightful essays throughout turn the spotlight on the important directors, thematic elements, and historical periods that provide insight into Los Angeles and its vibrant cinematic culture. Rounding out this information are city maps with information on how to locate key features, as well as photographs showing featured locations as they appear now.
A guided tour of the City of Angels conducted by the likes of Robert Altman, Nicholas Ray, Michael Mann, and Roman Polanski, World Film Locations: Los Angeles is moreover a concise and user-friendly guide to how Los Angeles has captured the imaginations of both filmmakers and those of us sitting transfixed in theatres worldwide.
A massive population shift transformed Los Angeles in the first decades of the twentieth century. Americans from across the country relocated to the city even as an unprecedented transnational migration brought people from Asia, Europe, and Mexico. Together, these newcomers forged a multiethnic alliance of anarchists, labor unions, and leftists dedicated to challenging capitalism, racism, and often the state.
David M. Struthers draws on the anarchist concept of affinity to explore the radicalism of Los Angeles's interracial working class from 1900 to 1930. Uneven economic development created precarious employment and living conditions for laborers. The resulting worker mobility led to coalitions that, inevitably, remained short lived. As Struthers shows, affinity helps us understand how individual cooperative actions shaped and reshaped these alliances. It also reveals social practices of resistance that are often too unstructured or episodic for historians to capture. What emerges is an untold history of Los Angeles and a revolutionary movement that, through myriad successes and failures, produced powerful examples of racial cooperation.