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Under Empire: Latinidad and Gentrification in Northeast Los Angeles

Authors: Luis Trujillo*, UCR
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Latinx Geographies, Housing Justice, Colonial Subjectivity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the role of race in determining the cause and effects of mass displacement in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA). Drawing on Ananya Roy, my project examines “racial banishment” and racialized displacement in the rapidly gentrifying predominantly immigrant, working class, Latinx and Asian neighborhoods of Northeast Los Angeles. Traditional narratives of gentrification in American cities draws its roots to the red-lining practices of the early to mid-20th century and subsequent patterns of infrastructural disinvestment for low income communities of color. Followed by the ramping financialization of housing, this has resulted in racially disproportionate rates in foreclosure and homelessness. In the vein of current key interventions by Critical Ethnic Studies and Critical Geography scholars, my work aims to situate this common narrative of gentrification within the colonial afterlives of bio-political/ subject-making projects in the Americas. I argue that a contemporary understanding of displacement, dispossession, and banishment for Latinx neighborhoods in Los Angeles cannot be complete without examining the anti-black and de-indigenizing elements of Latinidad in Latin America and the United States. I utilize a relational racialization analysis to study Latinx positionality within anti-black and settler colonial visions for the city. This analysis draws me to examine the historical construction of mestizaje in Mexico and its translation into a territorial nationalism in the US. My methods include an activist ethnography and oral history. I track the development of anti-displacement thought and praxis from mid-twentieth century nationalist movements for urban self-determination and sovereignty towards contemporary “right to the city” campaigns.

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