California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Call for Proposals: 2009-2010 Los Angeles History Research Group

From the Los Angeles History Research group:

The Los Angeles History Research (LAHR) group invites proposals for its 2009-2010 seminar season.  Since 1991, the LAHR group has provided a stimulating environment for scholars of Los Angeles history to discuss works in progress.  Presenters pre-circulate a paper and then meet with group members in seminar at the Huntington Library, located in San Marino, California.

If you are interested in presenting, please send by email a one-page proposal and a brief CV to one of the coordinators listed below by April 25.  Please indicate if you will be in Southern California for only part of the year, as travel stipends are not provided.  Those interested in receiving regular announcements of LAHR meetings are also invited to contact one of the coordinators to ask to be added to the email list.

Allison Varzally, California State University-Fullerton

Nick Rosenthal, Loyola Marymount University

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“Searching for Tamsen Donner” by Gabrielle Burton, reviewed in the L.A. Times by William Deverell

A new book about the Donner party, Searching for Tamsen Donner, by Gabrielle Burton, was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2009, by William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and professor of history at USC.

From the review:

“Searching for Tamsen Donner” is a kind of eulogy, one that recounts a trip Burton took in the late 1970s with her husband and five young daughters. An unusual variant of the “on the road” idea, the journey retraced the route the Donner Party took toward its fateful rendezvous with snow and death. Burton wanted to use the trip to research a work of fiction; those plans never came to pass. Instead, all these years hence, we have this odd, unlikely book. History lesson, memoir and intimate family portrait all at once, “Searching for Tamsen Donner” simultaneously re-creates the 1840s and the 1970s, east to west.

For the whole review, click here.

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“Whither the News in the Golden State?,” Asks Denise Spooner, of H-California

Denise Spooner <>, co-editor of H-California, the H-Net group dedicated to California history and culture, sent around for posting this email about the state of newspapers in California.  She invites input.

Date: March 10, 2009 3:49:23 PM PDT
Subject: Whither the News in the Golden State? – For Posting

Dear H-Californians,

Each morning, like thousands of Californians, I stumble out the front door
to retrieve the newspaper to read over breakfast.  For all of my adult life
in the Southland my paper of choice has been the Los Angeles Times.  Like
other newspapers the Times has undergone a series of devastating cuts that
have practically eviscerated the paper.  Most recently, the powers-that-be
decided to merge the California section with the front section in the
interest of cost-cutting.  For those of you who don’t receive the paper,
California and local news is now covered in the first several pages of the
front section, followed by a couple of pages of national news, and a page or
two of international news.  At first, the cuts to the paper infuriated me,
particularly since I valued the paper’s coverage of national and
international news.  Now I feel disoriented by the changes.  While some
might argue that putting California first emphasizes the significance of
local issues to the lives of most people, I find that I have far less
interest in local news than I did before.  I also find myself paging past
the national and international pages, perhaps disheartened by the emphasis
on local coverage?   As an avid fan of weather-related news, it took me over
a week to realize the weather page, which, logically, used to be on the last
page of the California section, is now on the back of the business page.

This brings me to the title of my post:  where is all this leaving us?   I
know that there have been loads of conversations about the future of
traditional newspapers on talking heads programs both on radio and
television, and undoubtedly the blogosphere too.  So I know that the future
doesn’t look good.  But the gist of my question is in an additional
direction.  While I consider new ways of coping with the changes to the Los
Angeles Times–including canceling my subscription and spending more time
with the New York Review of Books or some other source of information and
opinion–I wonder about the impact the demise of newspapers will have on
historical research as well.

I’m interested in hearing about the kinds of changes people are finding in
their local papers up and down the state, or even outside the state’s
borders.  I know that the Sacto Bee just announced big cuts, that the SF
Chronicle is on the ropes, as are other important sources of information.
What strategies are you employing to find news, from local to international?
Are there any good electronic sources of state-oriented news, beyond the
websites associated with the newspapers?  What ideas do you have about the
impact of the loss of newspapers on our shared interest in the study of the
history and culture of the Golden State?

Sadly, but wishing the best to all,

Denise Spooner, co-editor H-California

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Pirkle Jones, Calif. Photographer, dies: “I did the talking through the photographs.”

Pirkle Jones, photographer of California and its mid and late 20th century history, has died at age 95.  From the Los Angeles Times’ obituary:

Pirkle Jones, a California photographer admired for his stirring images of migrant workers, endangered landscapes and social movements, including a controversial series on the Black Panthers at the height of their activism in the late 1960s, died March 15 in San Rafael.

. . .

His best-known work includes a collaboration with [Dorothea] Lange called “The Death of a Valley 1956,” which portrayed the Berryessa Valley in Napa County during the year before completion of the Monticello Dam that flooded the valley; “Walnut Grove 1961,” a series Jones shot with his wife, Ruth-Marion Baruch, which documents a dying Sacramento River town; and “Black Panthers 1968,” also in collaboration with Baruch, which caused a furor for its sympathetic view of the black power movement.

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“Journeys in the Land of Sunshine: The Natural History of Early Los Angeles” – Lecture at the LA Main Library, April 5

The Los Angeles City Historical Society & the History Department, Los Angeles Public Library
present the annual Marie Northrop Lecture, on Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 2:00pm, at the Mark Taper Auditorium of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, 630 West Fifth Street (between Grand Avenue and Flower Street), Los Angeles.  This year’s lecture will be given by Elizabeth Pomeroy; she will speak on: “Journeys in the Land of Sunshine: The Natural History of Early Los Angeles”

From the historical society’s notice:

Through books and photographs, we can trace the early topography and natural features of Los Angeles and its surroundings.  The river, canyons, embracing hills and broad plain to the sea all influenced the settlement which grew into our metropolis of today.  Come and learn the history of this place so famous for its natural environment.

Elizabeth Pomeroy, a California native, holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA.  She has taught English at Pasadena City College and served on the staff of the Huntington Library.  She has long been active in organizations devoted to history, nature and conservation, serving as a Board member of the California Preservation Foundation, the Pasadena Historical Society, the Sierra Club, and other groups.

Her writing includes literary studies and books on Queen Elizabeth I and John Muir.  Her recent volumes, Lost and Found and Lost and Found II, contain the best of her many newspaper columns by that name on historic landmarks around the San Gabriel Valley.  These take-it-with-you guides reveal the history and geography of the Southland, with glimpses of art, culture and society. In 2000 she established Many Moons Press, which has published titles on California history and nature, including new editions of classics long out-of-print.  She continues to explore Southern California’s
interesting characters and gives seminars on the skills of the grassroots historian.

Free and open to the public – Made possible by the Wood Family Trust

This facility is handicap-accessible. Validated parking is available for $1.00 (between 1pm and 5pm only) at the 524 South Flower Street garage (validation at library desk with library card, obtainable that day.) Check for more information, or call (213) 228-7000. The Metro
Blue Line and Metro Red Line both have stops near Central Library, and most buses
coming downtown stop near the Central Library; check for rates, routes and schedules.

Los Angeles City Historical Society       PO Box 41046, Los Angeles CA
90041           (323) 936-2912  

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“Living the Legacy/Lessons Learned: A Dialogue with Black Panthers, Brown Berets and Community Activists” – at the Calif. African American Museum, Mar. 21

On Mar. 21, 2009, at 1:00 p.m., the California African American Museum will present a program entitled, “Living the Legacy/ Lessons Learned: A Dialogue with Black Panthers, Brown Berets and Community Activists.”

From the CAAM website:

The Black Panther Party created 65 community programs and published a weekly newspaper. Join former Black Panther Party and Brown Beret members as well as community activists for a lively discussion with Yusef Omowale, Director of the Southern California Library, as moderator. What lessons can we learn from them? How are activist organizations remaining vigilant in their quest for social justice and equity?

The museum is located at 600 State Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037.

Main Number: (213) 744-7432

CAAM RSVP line: (213) 744-2056

The California African American Museum (CAAM) is located in Exposition Park at the corner of Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard, west of the 110 (Harbor) Freeway. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena are adjacent to CAAM.

For more information, visit

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New articles at the California Journal of Politics and Policy

From the Berkeley Electronic Press:

The Berkeley Electronic Press is pleased to announce the following new articles recently published in California Journal of Politics and Policy, with a special focus on Proposition 8 and the California Supreme Court review of the gay marriage amendment. To view any of the new articles, simply click on the links below:

On Amending and Revising the Constitution: The Issues behind the Challenge to Proposition 8

Joseph R. Grodin

The principal question before the California Supreme Court is whether the state constitution can be modified through an initiative measure when that modification would take away from an identifiable group rights that the state Supreme Court has deemed to be “fundamental.” A subsidiary issue, which would arise only if Proposition 8 is upheld, is whether that measure operates to invalidate marriages conducted before its passage.

Should Proposition 8 Be Held to be Retroactive?

Jesse H. Choper

The legal challenges to Proposition 8 all involve matters of state law on which the California Supreme Court alone is the final authority. But even if the court agrees with interveners and upholds the validity of Proposition 8, there is a separate question of its effect on the 18,000 couples who have already been married. On this issue, the California Supreme Court must first determine if the voters intended the proposition to apply retroactively. This essay urges that it should not be construed as being retroactive and, in doing so, explores two possible challenges under the U.S. Constitution if the court were to interpret Proposition 8 so as to invalidate the 18,000 marriages.

The Continuing Growth of Mail Ballot Voting in California in 2008

Mark DiCamillo

This paper summarizes trends in mail ballot voting and permanent mail ballot registrants in California. It also examines the demographic characteristics of mail ballot voters and permanent mail ballot registrants in 2008.

What Do Debt Loads Say about California’s Fiscal Condition?

John Decker

For the past seven years, the state spent more from the General Fund than its tax structure generated. To help cover the difference, the state borrowed from institutional investors. Should Californians be concerned? More broadly, how does debt fit into the annual budget debate? Evaluation of debt loads help Californians assess the fiscal prudence and sustainability of the state’s fiscal structures.


The Public Sector Case for Marriage Equality

Dennis J. Herrera

The stakes in the Prop 8 case are no longer limited to marriage equality alone. Hanging in the balance is whether state constitutional protections for pluralism and diversity–qualities that have not only distinguished California throughout its history, but have been key to its emergence as global economic powerhouse–may be henceforth subject to the vicissitudes of campaign politics.

About the journal:

A bellwether and testing ground for emerging trends in policy and political developments, California’s politics reverberate around the world. <>California Journal of Politics and Policy is the only journal devoted to this unique state, publishing peer-reviewed research and commentary on state and local government, electoral politics, and policy formation and implementation, in California and in relation to national and international developments. Edited by leading experts James Q. Wilson (Pepperdine University), Jack Citrin (University of California, Berkeley), and Bruce E. Cain (University of California Washington Center), California Journal of Politics and Policy will appeal to scholars, practitioners, journalists, policymakers, officeholders, and anyone needing to understand the newest directions in state politics and policy.

Edited by

James Q. Wilson
Pepperdine University

Jack Citrin
University of California, Berkeley

Bruce E. Cain
University of California, Berkeley

Jerry Lubenow
University of California, Berkeley