Zones of Unexpectancy: Black Improvisation, Imagination, and Reclamation of Social Space-Time in Neoliberal Los Angeles

Authors: Jonathan Gomez*, UC Santa Barbara
Topics: Social Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Black Social Space, Lowrider, Culture, Unexpectancy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The concept of precarity properly calls attention to the unpredictability and insecurity that comes from joblessness and poverty. Unexpectancy adds an emphasis on the time specific dimensions of precarity, how endless disruptions and interruptions can make long term rational planning unlikely. Yet this very “unexpectancy” can be turned on its head by members of subordinated communities who use imagination, improvisation, and concrete action to create short term events in temporarily seized spaces, such as painting murals on housing project walls, and staging punk rock gatherings in alleyways and backyards. My presentation considers the use of lowrider car culture by Black car customizers in Los Angeles to turn unexpectancy on its head to reclaim social space-time that has been stripped from them by dominant social groups. More specifically, my paper emphasizes the deployment of Black culture as a social force to reassemble consumer-oriented parking lots for inter-racial low rider “hops.” In so doing, I contend that in the neoliberal era when dominant social groups fashion a city based on consumer citizenship and racially partitioned spaces, hops function to transgress the racialized class partitioning of the city. Moreover, I hold that these actions are a local manifestation of global responses by racially aggrieved groups to urban displacement and dispossession.

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