1. My own role and investment in this project followed from previous work in the study of popular culture, particularly independent cinema, and in the study of Los Angeles. The introduction below draws on several of my previous publications, especially Power Misses: Essays Across (Un)Popular Culture (London: Verso Books, 1996), and a history of non-studio filmmaking in Los Angeles currently in process, parts of the introduction to which are adapted below. Agreement with the principles expressed in this introduction should not be ascribed to the other contributors. [return to page 1]

2. Constrained by both space and hindered by the difficulties of finding scholars willing to commit their time to topics of this kind, our survey is by no means exhaustive in its account of either cultural communities that have existed in the recent past, or are presently coming into being. Prominent among the omissions are the Woman’s Building, the Wallenboyd and the Boyd Street Theaters, the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies, various public television initiatives, and Pasadena NewTown. New organizations, the many forms of community that are growing around the Internet (the Los Angeles Alternative Media Network, for example), are beyond the scope of the present volume, as are organizations specifically responsive to very recent immigration, such as the Mayan organization, IXIM, and the Salvadoran American National Association. On these last see Nora Hamilton and Norma Stoltz Chinchilla, Seeking Community in a Global City: Guatemalans and Salvadorans in Los Angeles (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001), pp. 66-67. Our concerns here include attention only to those grassroots community movements that developed specifically around cultural activities; for the role of parks, neighborhood and homeowners associations, community newspapers, public libraries, and the like in creating communities in Los Angeles, see Metamorphosis Project White Paper Number One, The Challenge of Belonging in the 21st Century: The Case of Los Angeles (The Annenberg School for Communication, 2001, http://www.metamorph.org/vault).

Another major omission here is attention to the many communities that have formed around music. These include classical music, ranging from the “Evenings on the Roof” of the 1940s and the “Monday Evening Concerts” (for which see Dorothy Crawford, Evenings On and Off the Roof: Pioneering Concerts in Los Angeles, 1939-1971 [Berkeley, University of California Press, 1995]), to the music and sound events organized by Cindy Bernard, initially in the late 1990s at the Sacred Grounds coffeehouse in San Pedro and then at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in West Hollywood. And they include more popular practices of music, of which the Los Angeles punk movement in the 1980s and the South Central rap movement in the 1990s are the most important recent examples. These latter were not examined here because mostly (though not entirely) they developed in nightclubs, record labels or informal tape distribution mechanism that grew on the edges of or within the music industry itself.

3. “Highways Spring 2002 Schedule,” notice for “Gay Men’s Performance Workshop.”

4. “The Laocoön,” The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed., David V. Erdman (Garden City: Doubleday, 1982), p. 272.

5. For user-friendly introductions to these concepts, see espectively Raymond Williams, Culture (London: Fontana, 1989) and Anthony P. Cohen, The Symbolic Construction of Community (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1985).

6. See Robert M. Fogelson, The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

7. Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London; Verso, 1989), p. 224; and Charles Jenks, Heteropolis (London; Academy Editions, 1993), pp. 17 and 32.

8. Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1920s (New York; Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 84); and the WPA Guide to California. (New York: Pantheon Books, [1939]1984), p. 208.

9. McWilliams, Southern California: An Island on the Land (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, [1946] 1973), p. 314.

10. The notion of “cultural bifocality” or pluralism is now more germane than older assimilationist models of acculturation; see Hamilton and Chinchilla, Seeking Community in a Global City, p. 9.

11. Greg Hise, Michael J. Dear, and H. Eric Schockman, “Rethinking Los Angeles,” Greg Hise, Michael J. Dear, and H. Eric Schockman, Rethinking Los Angeles (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1996), p. 11.

12. Respectively Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), and Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community (Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p.1.

13. David Bordwell, et al. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York; Columbia University Press, 1985). p. 123. By 1922, 84 percent of US films were made there. [return to page 2]

14. Southern California, p. 341.

15. Five years later, Matsushita sold 80 cent of MCA to Seagrams for $5.7 million. These figures are taken from Colin Hoskins, Stuart McFadyn, and Adam Finn, Global Television and Film: An Introduction to the Economics of the Business (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 23. For a complete analysis of the effect of the corporatization of the media system, see Robert W. McChesney, Rich Media: Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (Chicago; University of Illinois Press, 1999).

16. Figures in this paragraph are from McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy, pp. 17-18.

17. Selected from listings in “The Big Ten,” The Nation, 274, 1 (7 January 2002), pp. 27-32.

18. Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000), p. xxi.

19. Mutual Film Corporation v. Ohio Industrial Commission. See Richard Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928 (Berkeley, University of Californian Press, 1994), p. 199.

20. Janet Wasko, Hollywood in the Information Age (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), p. 205.

21. See Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York; Herder and Herder, 1972), p. 161:

“So completely is [culture] subject to the law of exchange that is no longer exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. Therefore it amalgamates with advertising.”

22. quoted in Andrew Jaffe, “The Hollywood Threat to Madison Avenue,” Los Angeles Times, 11 September 1991, B7. The article reported that Coca-Cola Co. had retained Michael Ovitz and his Creative Artists Agency to “put it in touch with ‘global pop culture.’”

23. Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1995), p. 23.

24. Some recent examples of such wholesale critiques include Pierre Bourdieu, On Television, trans., Priscilla Ferguson (New York: New Press, 1998), and Jeffrey Scheuer, The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999). Robert D. Putnam has argued that television watching is negatively correlated with civic participation and social involvement:

“Television…is bad for both individualized and collective civic engagement, but it is particularly toxic for activities that we do together. …[J]ust as television privatizes our leisure time, it also privatizes our civic activity, dampening our interactions with one another even more than it dampens individual political activities” (Bowling Alone, p. 229).

On the other hand, some recent empirical evidence from Los Angeles is equivocal about the negative effects of television, finding that whereas it had a direct negative effect on the relatively privileged Westside of the city, it had “indirect positive effects” among the largely immigrant populations of East Los Angeles; see Metamorphosis Project White Paper Number One, p. 34.

25. See Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds., Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain (Birmingham: Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1976).

26. As Nicholas Garnham has noted, the emphasis in affirmative Cultural Studies on cultural consumption rather than production “has played politically into the hands of a right whose ideological assault has been structured in large part around an effort to persuade people to construct themselves as consumers in opposition to producers”; see “Political Economy and Cultural Studies: Reconciliation or Divorce,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 12, 1 (1995), p. 65

27. On the urban writing of working-class Latinos in Los Angeles, see Susan A. Phillips, Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999). The city is designated as “Los” on a map on page 151. As part of California Trilogy, James Benning made a wonderful film in 2001 about Los Angeles that prominently featured its Latino citizens; he titled it Los.


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