California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest at Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley

design_radicals_exhibition_400_268This is the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, and one of its immediate legacies was an outpouring of creative and political energy that blossomed at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design in the spring of 1970. An exhibition of posters, experimental structures, and other phenomena are on display at CED’s library gallery October 16 – December 19, 2014.

For more, see the CED web posting.


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UCB California Studies Dinner Seminar: Tony Platt, ” What’s in an Icon?: The Political Journeys of Elizabeth “Betita” Sutherland Martinez” October 16, 2014

Tony Platt will speak on the long life and remarkable career of San Francisco-based writer and activist Elizabeth Sutherland Martinez on Thursday, October 16. Platt, who teaches at San Jose State, is the author of works on race, inequality, and social justice in American history. He has known Betita Sutherland Martinez for more than 35 years and will discuss her career and political activism stretching back to the late 1940s. The session is held at the UCB Institute for Labor Research and Education, 2521 Channing Way (just east of Telegraph) from 7 to 9 p.m. Free admission and dinner.
RSVP: Myra Armstrong,, 510-643-3012

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William Issel on Catholic politics in San Francisco

For a great review of Bill Issel’s new book, nose on over to Chris Carlsson’s Nowtowpian blog…

San Francisco’s much touted reputation as a bastion of liberal tolerance has an unexpected foundation in of all things, the Catholic Church! It’s a complicated tale involving the emergence of a liberal cross-class majority in favor of economic growth and individual rights that has important issel book coverroots in Catholic doctrine. By the last quarter of the 20th century the same liberalism that had prevailed as a manifestation of a “vital political center” had sown the seeds of its own demise. The dominance of Catholic morality over politicians, police, business, and labor leaders began eroding under the pressure of the post-war demographic changes in San Francisco. By the time the Soviet Union finally dissolved in 1991, liberalism had already lost its defining purpose (anti-communism combined with a capitalist-friendly regime of limited labor and human rights), while in San Francisco, the liberals had long become fused with elite business interests in their pursuit of a growth economy based on white-collar finance, real estate, medicine, tourism, and technology.

William Issel does a wonderful job of revealing and analyzing this history in his 2013 book Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth-Century San Francisco (Temple University Press). Rooted in the early 20th century’s labor movement, then dominated by Irish Catholics (and to a much lesser extent Italian and Latin American Catholics), “native sons” of San Francisco’s Mission District born between 1890 and 1930 played an extraordinarily influential role in the political and social development of San Francisco up to the 1970s.

Read the rest here….


Documentary – California State of Mind

Without endorsement, I’m passing along this notice of a new film about California politics and culture. [LMC]

California State of Mind
This Emmy nominated documentary is an exciting tale of the West, an entertaining biography and a CalStateMindprovocative portrait of a man whose bi-partisan can-do optimism inspires students today.
Full information available at

In the turbulent 1960s, an ordinary man rose to face extraordinary challenges and powerfully shaped the future of modern California. A dynamic American dream story unfolds in this new film on Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown — “the Godfather of Modern California.” Told through the eyes of Brown’s granddaughter, award winning filmmaker Sascha Rice, this film gives students an inside look at a California icon and a political family, called by some “the West Coast Kennedys.” As the filmmaker investigates her grandfather’s legacy, viewers are invited along to assess Brown’s policies, look critically at issues of government, leadership, civil rights, growth, and the clash between environment and economic development. Brown’s career intersects with such luminaries as JFK, Nixon, Reagan, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King. Transporting archival footage is interwoven with revealing commentaries from former Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis and current Governor Jerry Brown as well as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Karen Bass, and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

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UCB California Studies Dinner Seminar, Tuesday, September 16, 2014: Lincoln Cushing “Red All Over: Political and Countercultural Printshops of the San Francisco Bay Area”

The first dinner seminar of the 2014-2015 academic year will feature Lincoln Cushing, author, archivist, and activist speaking on socially conscious printshops in the Bay Area. Author of a book on social justice posters in the region, Cushing will discuss the shops that produced these powerful works of art. The session is from 7-9 p.m. at the UC Berkeley Institute for Labor Research and Education, 2521 Channing Way, just east of Telegraph Ave.
Free admission and dinner.
Contact Myra Armstrong,, 510-643-3012.

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Pop-up Talk: Lincoln Cushing on Radical Acts

Lincoln, one of our CSA steerers, gives a pop-up talk at OMCA. | Friday, August 15, 2014, 7–7:30 pm | Details:

radical-acts-1 Join archivist and author Lincoln Cushing for a brief talk in the newly reinstalled “Radical Acts” section within the Gallery of California Art. Cushing will discuss the postwar rise of social justice movements and related posters in the “All of Us Or None Archive,” a large set of political posters within the Museum’s collection. The Bay Area was a powerful node of production for these “paper bullets,” and Cushing will reveal the many layers of meaning in the posters on display. This in-Gallery pop-up talk takes place during Friday Nights @ OMCA, featuring half-off Gallery admission, Off the Grid food trucks, live music, and more.

Included with Museum admission. During Friday Nights @ OMCA, from 5 to 9 pm, admission is half-price for adults, free for ages 18 and under. Admission for Members is always free.

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California Studies Dinner Seminar: Fall Schedule

Tuesday, September 16
“Red All Over: Political and Countercultural Printshops in the Bay Area”
Lincoln Cushing

Thursday, October 16
“What’s an Icon?: Political Journeys of Elizabeth (Betita) Sutherland Martinez”
Tony Platt

Wednesday, November 19
“Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Journalist”
Laura Coodley

The seminars are held at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing Way (just east of Telegraph Ave), 7-9 p.m. Dinners free.

Contact: Myra Armstrong,, (510)643-3012.


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