Ethnic Dynamics in American Cities, Suburbs, and Agri-towns: Explorations of How Ethnicity Shaped Urban Spaces after 1960

AHA Session 58
Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, Penn State University
Reassessing Urbanization in an Agricultural Town
Carol Lynn McKibben, Stanford University
From Warm to Cold in LA: Exploring the Range of Reactions to Ethnic Diversification in Los Angeles Suburbs after 1970
Becky Nicolaides, University of California, Los Angeles and Huntington-USC Institute on California & the West
Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, Penn State University

Session Abstract

Immigrants and ethnic Americans have shaped urban areas in the United States for centuries. In the post 1960-era, the dynamics of this shaping took on new forms and meanings, particularly in majority minority places where rising ethnic players infused both continuity and change into local political and civic culture. Drawing on studies of the agri-town of Salinas, California, the suburbs of Los Angeles, and the city of Milwaukee, this panel explores a range of ways that ethnicity shaped built landscapes and civic cultures over the past half century. In the case of Salinas, located on California’s Monterey Peninsula, a stable multi-ethnic, interclass population worked together to create a cohesive, successful urban place. In many ways, Salinas defied traditional models of urban development and dynamics in the second half of the 20th century. In Los Angeles, new ethnic suburbanites after 1970 created a range of “ethnic” landscapes across L.A.’s vast suburban terrain. On the one end were “ethnoburbs,” where transnational flows of people and capital infused a robust sense of ethnic community; on the other were ethnic suburbs that retained the culture and aesthetics of the traditional Anglo suburb. These differences offer new paradigms for understanding American suburban history. In urban Milwaukee, redevelopment plans for one commercial district in the 1960s and 1970s, revealed how the city’s growth interests combined nostalgia and German ethnic heritage to reassert white ethnic hegemony in the city. Urban leaders sought to reclaim downtown space for middle-class white ethnics, all set against a backdrop of civil rights activism and unrest. Together, these papers consider the wide-ranging ways that ethnicity was deployed to produce urban spaces – some more inclusionary and visionary than others. Commenting on these histories of ethnic urban place will be Professor Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, whose award-winning work on Latino landscapes will provide a critical perspective sensitive to the ways that the built environment and everyday spatial practices are crucial for understanding the modern American metropolis. This panel will appeal to those interested in the history of cities, metro areas, suburbs, immigrant and ethnic communities, and race and class.
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