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"Arcadias and Avalons: Reframing Real Estate, Radicalism, and Race in the Cooperative Commonwealth of Los Angeles, 1893 - 1929"

  • Author(s): Gruen, Marlon Thann
  • Advisor(s): Fahs, Alice
  • et al.

Metropolitan Los Angeles grew dramatically during an era when a culture of cooperation enabled a broad dialogue among ideological systems that throughout most of the twentieth century would remain in violent opposition. Cooperation manifested in a location where scholars rarely search for it: in the relationship between utopian literature and real estate development that prevailed between 1893 and 1929. This study analyzes the ways that utopian concepts became useful to the capitalist enterprises promoted by boosters and builders, along with socialist developers attempting to materialize a new social order. While most analytical approaches to this subject emphasize the separation and isolation of utopian movements and colonies from the mainstream, “Arcadias and Avalons” questions the definition of mainstream and expands the category of utopian colony. Drawing on research in cultural studies, literary criticism, intellectual history, and urban planning, I argue that the substance and form of Los Angeles drew from an Anglo-Saxon imaginary that promised every white man a house and a job and nurtured social movements to advocate for every issue except solving the race problem. Utopia demanded racial homogeneity, and this became an important and persistent intellectual principle that contoured Los Angeles community planning during its most crucial period of material and metaphysical development.

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