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The Corporate and Geographical Organization of the Los Angeles Rent Plantation


This thesis intends to investigate the organization of the housing and land market in Los Angeles into an engine of racial capitalist value extraction, which produces profits for the owners of capital through the immiseration of low income communities of color. The primary research question I seek to answer is: what geographical form does the extraction of wealth from renter households and communities take, and how is this form established, by what structures and actors? Drawing on local property records and demographic data from the US Census Bureau, I visualize relationships of value flow between places and the relationships that they represent and construct through geographical and statistical approaches. The project blends empirical methodologies associated with sectoral analysis with value theoretical approaches, and seeks to offer a speculative sketch of the theoretical and empirical terrain as a base for further work. I am additionally inspired by the extension to critical mapping endeavors associated with Taylor Shelton’s “situated mapping,” which is relevant to the visualization of inequality I attempt (2021). I theorize the existence of a ‘rent plantation,’ a relational system of immiseration and valorization through which racialized and class differentiated geographically uneven development is enacted. I operationalize this concept analytically, and provide findings which point towards the usefulness and solidity of the theory, finding significantly differentiated relations of rent exploitation, rent share of income, and the translocal appropriation of housing values within LA county. I conclude with a discussion which addresses the case of South Central Los Angeles, a key site of extraction identified in these relations in detail.

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