Laura Pulido is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She’s one of those wonderful scholars I’ve followed long before I ever came to USC because of her work in urban inequality and social justice, but the book I’m going to highlight today is absolutely wonderful:
Pulido, L. 2006. Black, Brown, Yellow and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles. University of California Press.
Two of my favorite topics are here: place and political activism. She develops the history of the Black Panthers in Los Angeles, as well as the El Centro de Acción Social y Autonomo and East Wind (a Japanese American Collective). Pulido traces these groups’s histories to help ground theory in the sociological underpinnings of the Third World Left and its organizing in Los Angeles. Her time period is the 1960s through the 1970s, but she follows up on activists who are still alive to see what they are up to and their perceptions of what their groups and activities came to mean to organizing and Los Angeles.
The two key chapters that I really like in the book are
Chapter 6. The Politics of Solidarity: Interethnic Relations in the Third World Left; and
Chapter 7. Patriarchy and Revolution: Gender Relations in the Third World Left
In chapter 6, Pulido demonstrates how groups based in Los Angeles worked around problems that arise around interethnic organizing. Geography influenced the forms and activities these groups took on, but their intentions were to contribute to national and international change. Ultimately, Pulido argues they wound up being primarily nationalistic in the orientation. She discusses the hierarchy and prejudice embodied in the movements themselves: of all the groups that sought to work across race and ethnic lines, East Wind was the most active, and the most likely to be rejected because they were an Asian group and, thus, viewed as more privileged and less ‘real’ as revolutionaries than members of the Black Panther Party.
In chapter 7, she highlights the way in which women worked within organizations where high profile positions were assumed to be male by right but where women did an enormous amount of the work. Here, the research examines how women in each organization struggled with dual demands placed on women within ethnic organizations, between their goals for women’s emancipation and for sharing in the work and goals of the race, class, and ethnic organizations where they were often treated as second class members.
I like this book a great deal. I wish she had cluttered the writing a little more with specific sources, but it’s a wonderful read about an important topic (urban transnational organizing).