In the first book-length scholarly study of the San Fernando
Valley-home to one-third of the population of Los Angeles-Laura R.
Barraclough combines ambitious historical sweep with an
on-theground investigation of contemporary life in this iconic
western suburb. She is particularly intrigued by the Valley's many
rural elements, such as dirt roads, tack-and-feed stores,
horse-keeping districts, citrus groves, and movie ranches. Far from
natural or undeveloped spaces, these rural characteristics are, she
shows, the result of deliberate urbanplanning decisions that have
shaped the Valley over the course of more than a hundred
The Valley's entwined history of urban development and rural
preservation has real ramifications today for patterns of racial
and class inequality and especially for the evolving meaning of
whiteness. Immersing herself in meetings of homeowners'
associations, equestrian organizations, and redistricting
committees, Barraclough uncovers the racial biases embedded in
rhetoric about "open space" and "western heritage." The Valley's
urban cowboys enjoy exclusive, semirural landscapes alongside the
opportunities afforded by one of the world's largest cities.
Despite this enviable position, they have at their disposal
powerful articulations of both white victimization and, with little
contradiction, color-blind politics.
Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Political Science
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