Staff Reading on post-WWII Los Angeles

2009 February 11
by Ellen Noonan

For those who will be participating in the April 9th staff meeting discussion of Eric Avila’s Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles, here are a few questions to consider as you read. These are meant to be conversation starters, not the final word, and Aaron and I hope that others will use the comments here to chime in with thoughts and questions that arise as they read.

  • Avila bases his book on the idea that “culture, like war, is politics by other means.” Do his arguments and evidence convince you of that? Put another way, how much and in what ways are culture and politics linked in post-WWII southern California?
  • According to Avila’s view of Los Angeles, what are the characteristics that define urban life and what are the characteristics that define suburban life?
  • If you buy Avila’s argument, to what extent does it apply to other urban areas during the same time period? Is this dynamic between race, space, culture, and politics unique to Los Angeles?

Last 5 posts by Ellen Noonan

2009 February 24
Aaron Knoll permalink

It really struck me how he drew a connection between Noir film and the perception of the city in the United States at the time. In particular, Noir and the directorial style were heavily derived from the Europeans fleeing during World War II- and yet he finds something exceptional in terms of how perfectly they illustrate the issues of race within the American city. I’m not sure if i buy this argument. How can we accept this conclusion without an exploration of race in the European city in the same time? Did race mean the same thing in Europe at this time- particularly in terms of light and dark/black and white, or could the symbolism of light in Noir have meant something else?

2009 April 2
Ellen Noonan permalink

More questions to consider:
To what extent is this a story about class more than about race?
How clear a line can you draw between Disneyland and Ronald Reagan?
What’s the relationship between film and perceptions of urban racial/social crises?

Useful map of Los Angeles County:

2009 April 3

[…] For those of you following along out there with our staff (or those of you on staff) reading of Erik Avila’s Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight may want to take a look at the original post where Ellen and I have posted some discussion questions as well as some maps of the Los Angeles area. […]


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