Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creating cities and citizens: Municipal boundaries, place entrepreneurs, and the production of race in Los Angeles County, 1926–1978
by Connor, Michan Andrew, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2008, 578; 3341718
Abstract (Summary)

American urban and suburban places have been the sites of significant formations of race, ethnicity, and class, but the way in which places shape these formations has been incompletely understood. Racial identities are formed and altered through the production of metropolitan places. Historical instances of altering or maintaining political boundaries have affected relationships between metropolitan places and social identities. “Boundary events” reformulate racial identity insofar as they structure the political, economic, and cultural contexts of racially inflected local citizenship.

I integrate analyses from three fields. Political scientists and economists have assessed the institutional relationships between local places, but generally presumed ready-formed identities and interests. Critical race and ethnic studies scholars have shown that racial identities are mediated by discourses and institutions, but inconsistently based this analysis in historical place-time. Historians and geographers have chronicled the development of local places as cultural, political, and social entities. I assess places in relation to each other to demonstrate how local boundary events have affected the metropolitan context of identity formation, created favorable conditions for the production of racially differentiated political empowerment, and supported forms of racial identification rooted in this placed relationship to metropolitan power.

This inquiry assesses three boundary events: the consolidation of Watts to Los Angeles in 1926, the incorporation of Lakewood in 1954, and efforts to incorporate East Los Angeles between 1931 and 1974. These places singly are metonyms for particular racial formations, but collectively mark a metropolitan process that connects locations in space and time and by the 1970s produced a particular form of metropolitan racial hegemony. White middle-class residents of Lakewood used local government to protect a limited form of social democracy and to generate institutional and discursive politics that placed that same social democracy outside the reach of political activists of color in Watts and East Los Angeles. The effectiveness of white home rule in Lakewood was not simply a contrast to the critiques of disempowerment advanced in Watts and East Los Angeles; its seeming naturalness provided a visible model for the convergence of identity, territory, and power associated with urban identity politics.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ethington, Philip J.
Commitee: Deverell, William, Pulido, Laura, Sanchez, George
School: University of Southern California
Department: American Studies and Ethnicity
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, American history, Geography
Keywords: Boundaries, California, Local, Los Angeles County, Metropolitan, Place, Political geography, Race
Publication Number: 3341718
ISBN: 978-0-549-97356-0
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