In recent years large wildfires have plagued Southern California’s landscape. The most notable set of fires was in October of 2003, in which multiple fires scorched an area the size of small eastern states. In San Diego County alone, over 280,000 acres were burned before it was contained. Like hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, such fires have become a ‘seasonal’ disaster with heavy media coverage. At the same time, the media has included stories covering the successful use of shelter-in-place (SIP) practices, which are pre-emptive measures that protect homes from fire. This combination of increased fire and stories of successful uses of SIP, has made such measures more and more popular amongst different parties, including developers, government agencies, and homeowners (Cova and Johnson 2002; Dicus and Scott 2006).
This paper seeks to situate SIP within a social and historical context rather than focus on its successes and failures. Rather, it is my intent to open up a discussion of the historical and contemporary ways in which ‘safety’ are used to legitimize a particular type of urbanism – one that development driven and whose marketing if fear based. This analysis has two major threads running through it. The first is the issue of legitimization. Architecture and homes (as with all cultural products) are socially produced, as such their production (like all social activities) need to be legitimized (Becker 1984; Wolff 1993). The second issue, which runs through this paper, is the way in which this legitimization is tied to the production of space, which includes the natural and built environments (Heynen, Kaika, and Swyngedouw 2006; Lefebvre 1991). Therefore, this legitimization is not merely about defense. Rather the idea of ‘defense’ is a means towards the end of selling products. While such an instrumental logic by developers works as a business model, I want to criticize the premises and implications behind SIP’s usage.
Roundtable Presentation @ American Sociological Association in San Francisco, CA
In early twentieth century, Spanish-Colonial Revival became embedded in the local culture of Southern California. Through community celebrations, literature, film, and place names, images of the romantic Spanish past proliferated in mass media. However, perhaps most important of all was Spanish-Colonial Revival’s implementation in new homes. Both in the 1920s and since the 1980s, Spanish-Colonial Revival dominated the look of new suburban developments in Southern California. As such, red-tile, stucco, and palm trees are ubiquitous markers of not only development, but of regional identity. This presentation intends to explore the past (1920s) in order to make sense of present in two ways. The first is a demystification of Spanish-Colonial Revival via an examination of the political-economy of construction. It is my argument that, through the intersection of architecture, construction, and real-estate, the myth of “Hispanic California” was materialized. Secondly, this presentation seeks to grapple with the problematic legacy of the mythologized “Hispanic California” past. To put it simply, no heads turn when a new community is named after a hacienda, but the same could not be said about the term plantation, despite both terms have the same implications. Thus looking at construction and the iconography around it, we can understand the way in which power and difference is reproduced within both the built environment and discourse.
Presentation for the Pacific Sociological Association in San Diego, CA (April 2009).
Oliver Schmitz’s Hijack Stories (2000) is a story of cross-over cultures and mixed genres set in Johannesburg. In this blurring of boundaries, he presents us an interplay between the dangerous city of both fact and fiction. Schmitz’s cinematic depiction of the city, weaves in and out, as well as to and from yuppie neighbourhoods and Soweto. Thus, we see how post-apartheid Johannesburg is a place of hybrid identities not only in the different spaces of the city, but through the influence of global hip-hop cultures, as well as the real and imagined perceptions of the city’s ‘citizens’. This paper examines the way in which Schmitz’s film intersects these relationships in this edgy city.
- Presentation for the New York Conference on Asian Studies at Bard College (October 30, 2004)
This paper will focus on the historical ephemerality of boundaries in regards to Hong Kong’s cinema in order to understand the multi-leveled negotiations that make up its cinematic vernacular. The role of place and location is both integral to the understanding of cities, as well as cinematic narratives. Although this paper mentions readings of specific films, this is not my emphasis. Rather the focus of this paper is an examination of how the pre- and post- 1997 movie industry reflects not simply the city’s engagements with the issues surrounding postcoloniality. Furthermore, I shall situated the local in long term historical processes.