Talks: Historical Perspectives / 2013-2014

Primary Source

Shaping San Francisco hosts Public Talks on a variety of topics on Wednesday nights, about 18 times a year. One recurrent theme has been Historical Perspectives, which covers all sorts of topics that delve into our shared and disputed understandings of what shaped our world. Here are the Talks we held at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia Street in 2013-2014.

December 3, 2014

Tunneling San Francisco Then and Now: Where's the Public Interest?

A discussion of the west side tunnels and MUNI expansion in the 1910s, simultaneous to the building of the Hetch Hetchy water and power system by Elizabeth Creely and Catherine Powell, with Tim Redmond to compare today’s infrastructure build-out (Central Subway, sewers, and rebuilding Hetch Hetchy aqueduct).

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October 9, 2014

Making History by Making Maps

Nicole Gluckstern and Burrito Justice trace the lines of their literary history mapping project (Bikes to Books) and map-making, and are joined by historical geographer Dick Walker co-author of the fantastic project The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era.

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Download a pdf of the Atlas of California presentation (20MB).

September 24, 2014

No Future at College?!?

A discussion among adjunct faculty (aka temp teachers), City College of San Francisco advocates and defenders, and Student Debt activists—how to understand the current neoliberal-imposed crisis in higher education, and what is a future worth fighting for? With Joe Berry of COCAL, Christian Nagler from the recent unionizing success at the San Francisco Art Institute, Wendy Kaufmyn and Lalo Gonzalez from CCSF.

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May 28, 2014

San Francisco's Ghadar Party Heritage

In 1913, students, farmers, and roaming revolutionaries working to free India from British colonial rule formed the Ghadar Party. The party, headquartered in San Francisco, collaborated with a variety of Bay Area-based freethinkers, labor activists, anarchists, and expats of colonized nations.

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April 16, 2014

Upton Sinclair/End Poverty in California

Lauren Coodley’s new biography of Sinclair dubs him a “California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual”. She sheds light on his remarkable life as the writer who exposed the meatpacking industry in The Jungle, the depradations of the oil industry, the wrongful prosecutions of Sacco and Vanzetti as well as the Wobblies, but Coodley reveals a previously under-appreciated side of Sinclair: his feminism. Jay Martin joins the discussion to focus on Sinclair’s momentous 1934 California gubernatorial campaign to “End Poverty in California (EPIC).”

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March 19, 2014

Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance

In this majestic tour de force, celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, polluters of the seas, ravagers of the forests, despoilers of rivers, and removers of mountaintops. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth that has not had commoning at its heart. "Neither the state nor the market," say the planetary commoners. Linebaugh kindles the embers of memory like few other historians of our time to ignite our future commons. Linebaugh brings to life the vital commonist tradition. He traces the red thread from the great revolt of commoners in 1381 to the enclosures of Ireland, and the American commons, where European immigrants who had been expelled from their commons met the immense commons of the native peoples and the underground African-American urban commons. Co-sponsored by PM Press.

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January 15, 2014

Latinos at the Golden Gate: Creating Community & Identity in San Francisco

Latin American migrants have been part of San Francisco’s story since its beginning. Charting the development of a hybrid Latino identity forged through struggle--latinidad--from the Gold Rush through the civil rights era, Tomás Summers Sandoval describes the rise of San Francisco’s diverse community of Latin American migrants, giving a panoramic pespective on the transformation of a multinational, multi-generational population that is today a visible, cohesive, and politically active community.

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October 9, 2013

Bay Area Indigenous Pre-History

Imagine a time when the land that we know as the Franciscan Peninsula extended out to the Farallones and mastodons and tigers roamed freely. Imagine small seasonal villages along waterways engaged in trading across the bay, and tule canoes making the journey. Park Historian Breck Parkman will share his extensive research into the prehistory of the Bay Area, and Malcolm Margolin (Heyday Books, The Ohlone Way) joins in with his years of exploring the indigenous history of the region. Mary Jean Robertson of the Ohlone Profiles Project moderates, and Antonio, Ohlone, shares stories and preparations for the weekend's Big Time Gathering.

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September 25, 2013

Radical Archiving and Cataloging as Social History

What role do nontraditional archives play in the preservation and interpretation of peoples' history? This open discussion will explore some of the opportunities and challenges of radical repositories. Some of the issues that will be addressed include:

  • What defines a radical archive?
  • What can be productive relations between community-based or independent archives and more established (and establishment) institutions?
  • What tools and processes are making it easier to document, catalog, and share oppositional cultural objects?
  • What is the role of ordinary people in building useful collections?

Lincoln Cushing is a professional archivist responsible for Docs Populi - Documents for the Public, documenting and disseminating social justice poster art. He is also archiving consultant with the Oakland Museum of California helping to process the All Of Us Or None poster collection. Claude Marks is the Director of The Freedom Archives, a political, cultural oral history project, restoration center, and media production facility in San Francisco. Nathaniel Moore is an archivist at the Freedom Archives. He has a MA in African Studies and a MS in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.

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September 11, 2013

The Bay Bridge, 1936-2013

Chris Carlsson presents a historic look at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, how it has changed over time, going from two-way traffic on the top deck (3 lanes in each direction) with trains and trucks on the lower deck, to today's new span. The history of automobility surrounding the bridge, and the many other schemes to build more bridges and crisscross San Francisco with high-speed freeways shows the context of the Bridge... The new Bike Pier (not quite halfway-across-the-bay bike lane) gets a close look too.

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April 13, 2013

Chinese Whispers

An evening of stories and discussion about the impact of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (which wasn’t rescinded until 1943!) on the Chinese American community in San Francisco. This infamous legacy was both subtly woven into community cultural life, and overtly demarcated social and geographical boundaries. Chinese Whispers, a research and storytelling project about the Chinese who helped build the American West, will present excerpted stories from the Bay Area which reveal the deep impact of the Exclusion Act on generations of Chinese American families, and a community story contributor will talk about memories of a growing up in a San Francisco Chinatown that was still essentially socially segregated from the rest of the City. This overlooked history is also very relevant to the ongoing immigration debate. With the Chinese Historical Society of America, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, filmmaker Felicia Lowe, and more.

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February 27, 2013

Pier 70, Transforming 19th Century Ironworks to a 21st Century ... ?

Join Ralph Wilson, Jasper Rubin, and artist Wendy MacNaughton in a wide-ranging critical look at the history and plans for the oldest industrial buildings west of the Mississippi River, the launchpad for much of the U.S.'s imperial fleet in the late 19th and early 20th century. Increasingly derelict over the past few decades, but still home to the last drydock in San Francisco, big plans are afoot. Join critics, analysts, and artists for a closer look.

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January 30, 2013

Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth

From editor Sasha Lilley's essay: "By its very nature, capitalism is catastrophic. There should be no doubt that the multiple social, and especially ecological, crises of our time are genuine and cataclysmic. We are suggesting, however, that politics embedded within the logic of catastrophe – that the catastrophe will deliver a new world, or that it will create the conditions under which people automatically take action – do not serve the left and environmental movement. An awareness of the scale or severity of catastrophe does not ineluctably steer one down the path of radical politics, in spite of received wisdom on the left and many great – albeit frequently dashed – expectations. Those who believe that the system will crumble from crises and disasters lose sight of the ways that capitalism uses crises for its own regeneration and expansions. Likewise, a focus on spectacular catastrophes typically overlooks the prosaic catastrophes of everyday life that are the sediment upon which capitalism is constructed." Join Sasha Lilley and Jim Davis to go deeper into Catastrophism! Co-sponsored by PM Press.

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