Crisis and Creativity: A Roundtable on Los Angeles in the World

Endorsed by OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories and WHA

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Borderlands; Immigration and Internal Migration; Urban and Suburban


“Los Angeles represents both the American crisis and the site of unusual creativity for people trying to create a more just and equal society,” contends the call for proposals for the 2023 OAH meeting. As this roundtable demonstrates, these two versions of L.A.—crisis and renewal—have been profoundly shaped by global forces of empire, revolution, migration, and capitalism. By bringing together historians from a range of subfields including borderlands history, comparative ethnic studies, the history of sexuality, and carceral studies, this roundtable explores ways that Angelenos across the 20th century imagined, built, and contested their city’s place in the world.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Nayan Shah, University of Southern California
Nayan Shah is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California.He is the author of three books: Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (2001), Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West(2012), and Refusal to Eat: A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes (2022).

Panelist: Alex Burnett, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Alex Burnett is an interdisciplinary historian of the 20th century United States and a Ph.D. student in the joint History and Women’s & Gender Studies program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research and teaching explore transgender and queer politics, racial capitalism, psychiatry, and the U.S. carceral state from 1945 to the present. Outside of the classroom, she is a steward with the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), a board member for the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, and a graduate researcher with the Carceral State Project at the University of Michigan.

Panelist: David Helps, University of Michigan
David Helps is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Michigan. His research, writing, and teaching interests are in U.S. political history, comparative racial formation, migration, and carceral studies. His dissertation in progress, “Securing the World City: Policing, Migration, and the Struggle for Global Los Angeles” explores the relationship between law enforcement and globalization since the early 1970s. He is also a Graduate Research Fellow with the Carceral State Project, where he produced the interactive report Highway Robbery: How Metro Detroit Cops & Courts Steer Segregation and Drive Incarceration with the Detroit Justice Center.

Panelist: Jessica Michelle Kim, California State University, Northridge
Jessica Kim is an associate professor of history at California State University, Northridge. She holds a PhD in history from the University of Southern California and specializes in the history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the U.S. West, urban history, and public and digital history. Her book, Imperial Metropolis: Los Angeles, Mexico, and the Borderlands of American Empire, 1865-1941, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2019. The book was the 2020 co-winner of the Kenneth Jackson Award for best book from the Urban History Association and a finalist for the David J. Weber book prize from the Western History Association.

Panelist: Abigail Rosas, California State University, Long Beach
Abigail Rosas is Associate Professor of Chicano and Latino Studies at California State University, Long Beach. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and Sociology from Stanford University. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, the activism of resilient Latina/o and African American neighbors and friends have been formative to her scholarly pursuits. Her research has been supported by a Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Postdoctoral Fellowship, a UCLA Institute for American Cultures Post-Doctoral Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, the OAH Nathan Huggins-Benjamin Quarles Award, and a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. Her research and teaching explore comparative and relational ethnic studies, Chicano and Latinx history, urban history, and gender studies. Her book South Central Is Home: Race and the Power of Community Investment in Los Angeles (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019) centered on the relational community formation of Latina/os and African Americans in South Central Los Angeles.