From South Gate to L.A. Live: Demographic Change, Homeowner Ethos and Redevelopment in Southeastern Los Angeles


When Becky Nicolaides chairs or comments on a panel, people show up. The author of the now seminal My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 always draws a crowd. As her book has assumed a sort of Crabgrass Nation status, the suburb at the heart of it, South Gate, has become an ur-text for Southeast Los Angeles more broadly. Nicolaides ended her study in 1965 but in her epilogue noted that twenty-first-century South Gate now served as a predominantly working-class Latino American suburb, representative of larger structural shifts in economics, demographics, and perhaps even immigration (though commentator Philip Ethington might differ on this … [Read more...]

Housing, Homeless, and Freeways: Kicking Off SACRPH 2015 with a History of L.A. Social Justice

Brass Band, Walk the Talk

When you look up the word "plenary," the dictionary provides the following definition: “(of a meeting) to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups.” Plenaries when scheduled at the beginning of a conference are meant to set the tone, and the opening session at this year’s Society of American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH), “Social Justice through a Historical Lens,” did just that. In a nation that has just witnessed protests at the University of Missouri that led to the resignation of the school’s president and the Ferguson uprising of 2014 that helped spark the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the plenary provided a loose … [Read more...]

SACRPH 2015: The Politics (and Non-Politics) of the Unplanned City in the US, UK, and Germany


Panels at conferences often feel like a hastily assembled mishmash of different things, like a fruit salad made by Mr. Magoo. Scholars who do not know each other and know less about each other’s research work together over email to try to slap together panel proposals that seem just plausible enough to pass muster with weary conference organizers, who have papers to grade, toddlers with runny noses, and annoying emails from students to answer. (In my best John Oliver voice: If the reading is listed next to the class date on the syllabus, you read it BEFORE CLASS on that day Jeremy!) But occasionally you get to see a panel where all the papers interlock in meaningful and intellectually … [Read more...]

“The Plan Keeps Coming Up Again”: Conspiracy Theories, Policing 1970 D.C., and Creating Model Neighborhoods in Model Cities (Best of UHA, Part 4)


Today's post wraps up our coverage of the Urban History Association's Seventh Biennial Conference in Philadelphia.  You can find overviews of other great panels on everything from "cartographies of protest" in Boston to the Mafia-like dark arts of the PTA here, here, and here.  If you want to check out Kenneth Jackson's bikini bod, though, you'll have to settle for TMZ. Kwame Holmes, "Paranoia as Prescience: The Plan, Black Conspiracy Theory and the History of Black Displacement in a Post-Civil Rights Chocolate City" "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you,” wrote Joseph Heller in the novel, Catch 22.  Few places reflect this reality like 1970s … [Read more...]

The Power of Public Shaming: Cartographies of Protest in Boston and PR Stunts for Public Housing in the ATL (Best of UHA 2014, Part 3)


In part three of ToM’s UHA coverage, the role of media in shaping advocacy and protest occupies center stage. Whether advocating for Atlanta public housing or protesting Massachusetts’s plans for new highway construction, politicians and activists cannily manipulated media to their own ends. Refreshingly, in each case, agency was rewarded with victory or, in the case of Katie Marages Schank’s talk on Maynard Jackson and the Bankhead Court Project, a temporary reprieve.   Karilyn Crockett, “Maps, Newspapers, Press Releases and the Anxiety of Movement Building: Struggles within the Boston Anti-Highway Movement, (1966-1987) “Pack up, I’m strayed, Enough/Oh, say, say, say say…. Wait, … [Read more...]

The Magic of Crabgrass: Thirty Years Later, An Appraisal of Kenneth Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier (Best of UHA 2014, Part 2)


"If I had added everything I'd still be writing it," eminent historian of U.S suburbanization and Columbia Professor Kenneth Jackson reflected during the UHA’s 2014 roundtable discussion honoring the upcoming 30th anniversary of his 1985 work, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. A packed house of historians dressed in their “urbanist best” greeted Jackson who admitted to being a bit “overwhelmed by the turnout but pleased for many reasons.” One can take for granted the enormity of Jackson’s most famous work Crabgrass Frontier (CF). Today, it seems common knowledge that federal policy in the form of redlining and racial bias in mortgage infrastructure … [Read more...]

Beyond the Bakesale: PTAs, Education Reform, & the Best of UHA 2014, Part 1


Several times a year, the intrepid reporters of Tropics of Meta follow the academic conference beat, checking out panels on everything from the Illuminati to Asian American basketball leagues and sissy rap. At their best, conferences offer a window into the freshest and most innovative historical scholarship, and our reports on panels aim to give readers an early look at the groundbreaking articles and books of tomorrow.  This year's Urban History Association conference was the organization's eighth biennial meeting, and the world's hardest working urbanists braved the persistent drizzle of "always sunny" Philadelphia to attend panels and plenaries on the campus of the University of … [Read more...]

The War on Poverty at 50: How Far Have We Come, and Where Are We Going? (A Conference Report)


One goal of studying the past is not to be trapped by history but to transcend it. -- Historian Michael B. Katz (1939-2014) ToM regularly covers disciplinary conferences. Last week, the University of Pennsylvania hosted "The War on Poverty at 50: Its History and Legacy." Your ToM correspondent spoke at the event while furiously taking notes during all the panels to produce the write-up you have before you. Videos of the event will be up shortly and embedded below. (Panelists, if you're reading this, let me know if something's missing or distorted, and I'll modify this account immediately. I tried to keep these as brief as possible while conveying the major thrusts of the papers.) The … [Read more...]

Hurting for Healthcare: Veterans, the Elderly, & the Disabled in US Health Politics

military veteran va hospital

Every year, the sycophants of the mainstream media get to rub shoulders with famous attractive people (actors) and famous ugly people (politicians).  The White House Correspondents Dinner is an orgy of self-congratulatory back-patting, which attendees lovingly refer to as "nerd prom." Well, the biennial Policy History Conference is not exactly prom, but it is definitely the nerd equivalent of some kind of major social event.  Nerdstock? Wonkapalooza?  If tax policy or brownfield mitigation is your bag, then you will surely be making your way to Albany, Frankfort, or whichever button-down cowtown the conference happens to be held in that year.  This year Policy History rolled into the … [Read more...]

Incubating Scholarship and Smart Students: Teaching and Publishing at Community Colleges amidst the New Realities of Academia: Best of AHA 2014, Part 4


For Part 1 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification - click here For Part 2 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves - click here For Part 3 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform - click here For coverage of other conferences like UHA 2010/2012, AHA 2012, and others -  click here. “It’s like explaining something to a bright ten year old,” Emily Tai, an Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College told the audience. Tai, speaking to fellow historians, and … [Read more...]


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