Page 99 ends my verbatim account of broken dialogue in an anti-gentrification rally in Leimert Park, Los
Angeles in 2017. This third of a page consists of three references to Marilyn Strathern’s work, only one of
which is found in my list of references!
First, I make use of Strathern’s (2011) language to describe the relation between two parties brought together in a small classroom for a breakout session titled “Fighting the New White-Washing”. Strathern helps me to speak of the young activists protesting against art galleries in Boyle Heights and the elderly homeowners from Leimert Park who had gathered to hear them as “embedded in analogous moral contexts of support” without falling back on questions of ethnic or racial unity and division implicit in the context of anti-gentrification campaigning Los Angeles.
The second reference shows Strathern (1998) commenting on ownership and social relations and more or less states the obvious: both the young activists in Boyle Heights and the elderly homeowners in Leimert Park wanted to pass houses on in the family. In the historically segregated Los Angeles this simple observation ties together intimate moral obligations, expectations, and family wealth with the full weight of structural racism. This “breakout session” chapter cuts the thesis in half and connects housing questions to an ethnographic account of people doing art and culture. Thus, the second reference suggests that people’s readiness to “organize relations to one another as a matter of control” in housing also extends to artistic creations and notions of culture.
The final reference situates these social worlds into the larger network of relations in the city. Borrowing
Strathern’s (1996) authority again I say that ownership was a means to cut the network, to mark boundaries, and this is how I make a full circle back to the segregated geography of Los Angeles. Built into the city the Euro-American hegemonic logic of perceiving relations meant that discussions around gentrification had the tendency to revert back to questions of ethnic or racial unity and division.
Strathern’s work helps me to speak of racial hierarchy and domination in a less familiar language and page 99 is a fittingly clumsy example of this Brechtian distancing effect at work.
Strathern, M. 1996. “Cutting the Network.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2, no. 3 (1996):
Strathern, M. 1998. Divisions of interest and languages of ownership. In: Property relations: renewing the
anthropological tradition. Hann, C. M., ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Strathern, Marilyn. 2011. Binary License. Common Knowledge 17(1): 87-103.