Making Los Angeles: Race, space, and municipal power, 1822–1890

2006 2006

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Abstract (summary)

Exploring the nexus of society, politics, economy, and ideology, his dissertation argues that an ongoing and reflexive relationship between race, space and municipal power generated and determined Los Angeles' growth and development during the nineteenth century. By investigating the interrelation between processes of racial construction and city building, I hope to more fully elaborate both the city's particular racial structure and its physical makeup as they evolved between 1822 and 1890. Having only recently fashioned their identity as Mexicans independent from Spain, elite Mexican Californians engaged immigrants from the United States in a sustained battle for control of the city's future between 1840 and 1872. Out of this struggle between divergent visions of the good society grew locally specific "White" and "Mexican" racial categories built from a cluster of ascriptions regarding ancestry, gender, economy, and fitness for citizenship. In the early 1870s, what had been a closely contested battle became a rout. European Americans gained a significant demographic majority and secured a political monopoly that enabled them to put their long-contested vision into practice. Sewer building, street, grading and surfacing, and other infrastructural projects became only the most visceral manifestations of a larger effort to transform Los Angeles from a Mexican pueblo into a bustling U.S. city during the 1870s and 1880s. Try as they might to homogenize and Americanize the physical city, European Americans could not completely contain the vibrant and heterogeneous social life of the city center. Even as built spaces established new racial boundaries and imposed often hidden inequalities, Mexican, Chinese, and Black Americans maintained a powerful cultural presence and began to organize socially and politically. In all, this project tells a tale of competition contest and contingency whose outcomes for race, space, and municipal power were never predetermined, however predictable they might seem in hindsight. Throughout these chapters, I argue that the ongoing cycles of conflict and compromise that manipulated identity, the environment, and the concept of the public good brought meaningful changes to the nature of social relations, the demarcation of physical and cultural space, and the institutional configuration of city government in Los Angeles.

Indexing (details)

American history;
Minority & ethnic groups;
Hispanic Americans
0337: American history
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
0737: Hispanic Americans
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; California; Chinese-American; Los Angeles; Mexican-American; Municipal power; Race; Space
Making Los Angeles: Race, space, and municipal power, 1822–1890
Torres-Rouff, David S.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 67/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Spickard, Paul
University of California, Santa Barbara
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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