My research...



My research is focused on exploring the intricate relationship between the construction and growth of Los Angeles, California and the varied interactions between the different ethnic groups that lived there in the 19th century. My PhD dissertation (History, UC Santa Barbara, 2006) examines the intersection of race with place in Los Angeles through the lens of city planning and city life. I have recently completed researching and writing the dissertation.

Please click here to read the abstract of my dissertation.

My complete dissertation is available here as a pdf (large file - 35mb)


The first section discusses the transition from Mexican to US authority in Los Angeles. In particular, I suggest that the contest for Southern California stretched well beyond the conventional time frame of the short Mexican War, beginning in about 1840 and not reaching resolution until the early 1870s. One part of this section deals primarily with public policy, especially issues surrounding land, water, and the public good. The contest between Mexican Californian and US public philosophies ultimately produced locally specific White and Mexican racial categories. The other part of this section adopts a comparative borderlands perspective to address the problem of endemic violence and vigilante justice. This reflected a city that was in the midst of a transition between the pre-existing Mexican system of justice and it's class based structure towards a new American form of justice where race ultimately became the dividing line between groups of people.


A broader examination of the relationship between infrastrucutre, city services and racial construction occupy the second half of the thesis. Between 1870 and the turn of the century, European Americans dominated Los Angeles politically and demographically, using this power to build the city in accordance with their vision. Yet their infrastructural projects frequently excluded communities of color, embedding discrimination into the city's physical and institutional foundations. An article I have written on this process in the construction of the sewer system, "Water Use, Ethnic Conflict, and Infrastructure in Nineteenth Century Los Angeles" appeared in the February, 2006 issue of the Pacific Historical Review. Despite these inequities, life on the streets themselves remained remarkably diverse during this period, and Black, Chinese, and Mexican businesses and community organizations profoundly influenced the life of the city.


Beyond the dissertation, I have also examined the remaking of race and place in Los Angeles between 1910 and 1930. Policy makers responded to the influx of tens of thousands of Mexicans and Black Americans into the city by resorting to formal segregation for the first time, bringing to the surface the relationship between race and place that had laid buried at the city's foundation. I am preparing my research on the appearance of segregated schools for Los Angeles' Mexican children for submission to American Quarterly.


I have also researched the representation of Los Angeles to potential European American migrants during the late 19th century. These texts and images often shaped immigrants notions of Los Angeles and its people, and weighed heavy in their decisions to migrate. Consequently, this affected how European American migrants thought of and behaved towards Black, Asian, and Mexican Angelenos upon their arrival in Los Angeles. I plan to turn this research into a book sometime in the future.