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"Expert" Racism: Police, politicians, the wealthy, and the production of racial boundaries in a Los Angeles neighborhood and beyond


My primary research question is: how do people in positions of power or with extensive resources at their disposal use information to control socially "deviant" groups and shape the physical geography of the city? I present four case studies that reconstruct the process of knowledge creation and the role of knowledge collection in both force and management in the areas of gang injunctions, broken windows/order maintenance policing, zoning, and development. The first three case studies focus on the Los Angeles neighborhood of Cadillac-Corning. I explore how housing development and school enrollment created the neighborhood's boundaries in the 1960s. I address the puzzle of why how this small neighborhood came to be exceptional compared to the rest of the area in which it sits in terms of housing, demographics, stigmatization, and disproportionate policing. I also use historical documents and interviews I return to the 1980s during the emergence of Los Angeles City's first gang injunction in Cadillac-Corning, a landmark policy that spread to the rest of the city and nation. I analyze where the gang injunction protocol and prohibitions come from; for what purposes was the original injunction created; and how the gang injunction shaped racial and spatial criminalization and the broken windows theory. The third case study follows community groups predominately composed of West Los Angeles homeowners and business owners as they cooperate with and challenge the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. I use ethnography to describe how community groups appropriate the broken windows theory espoused by the LAPD and LA City Attorney's Office in attempts to shape the physical appearance and behavior of residents in the La Cienega Heights (formerly Cadillac-Corning) neighborhood. Conflict occurs in community policing partnerships when educated, wealthy and politically powerful civilians challenge police tactics of controlling deviant others.

My project goes beyond a neighborhood study. The policies and practices developed in Cadillac-Corning spread to the rest of the city, state, and nation. Lastly, I seek to use my research to actively disrupt the current modes of knowledge production that rest upon accepted arguments about disorder, race, and deviance. I engage in research with social justice organizers in Inglewood, California according to a model that complicates dominant conceptions of methodology, expertise, and subject matter.

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