The Metropolis and Me: A History of Immigration, Race and Space in Southern California


Department: Sociology

Instructor: Troy Kokinis and Paloma Checa-Gismero
Instructor's Email:; 
Prerequisites: none 

Course Description

In this course we will think about the historical forces that have shaped cities in Southern California. We will pay special attention to the ways immigration, race, and urban space constitute each other by examining Spanish colonization of the Southwest in the 17th century. Settler-colonial ideologies and practices have influenced the organization of race and urban space immensely. We will trace settler-colonial legacies and their influence in the production of cities. Additionally, we will use this knowledge to think about the structures that organize our own life in the city.

We will focus primarily on urban growth in Southern California upon Mexican Annexation in 1848. We look at official and unofficial state policies that have shaped urban racial divisions and inequities. By exploring how industry, real estate, and the state have consistently collaborated to displace and/or exclude non-white groups, we will come to see how this pattern continues into the twenty-first century. 

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

To illustrate the concepts learned in class, we will take field trips to visit sites in Balboa Park, North Park, Chicano Park, and the Borderlands State Park. This course draws primarily on material from history, critical race studies, and ethnic studies. This course will improve our analytical and writing skills. By engaging in critical analysis of the city, we will come to understand how race and immigration are fundamental to understanding the production of space.

Content and Evaluation

Assignments: Students will write three reflections (2 pages each) based on course content from each week which will include cultural texts and reading material presented to the students by the instructors. Reflections will put the readings in conversation with one another and will be used to analyze the cultural texts provided to them.

Final: Students will produce a final group project on a theme of their choosing exploring the importance of race, immigration, and space. The final project will be presented on the last day of class.  

Extra Credit: Students can draw from a list of films organized by the instructors and write a 2 page reflection on how class themes appear throughout the feature. Extra credit can be used to substitute one incomplete assignment.

Topical Outline


Week 1:

Settler Colonialism and Ideologies of the Urban
Indian Removal, Migrant Labor, and Slavery
City Beautiful Movement: San Diego
Field Trip: Balboa Park


Week 2:

Jim Crow Laws, Segregation, and White Supremacy
White Flight, Housing, and Popular Culture (Film Noir, Disneyland, the Los Angeles Dodgers)
Field Trip: Chicano Park


Week 3:

Multiculturalism, Post-Raciality, and Gentrification
The Post-Modern Urban Dystopia, Racialized Suburbs
The Metropolis and Me
Field Trip: North Park, Borderlands State Park