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 2017-2018.
November 7, 2018
The War to End All Wars
If there were a single event of the 20th century that we could magically undo, would it not be the war of 1914-1918? It led to some 20 million military and civilian deaths, the rise of Nazism, the Russian Revolution, and another even more destructive world war. On the centennial of WWI, the “War to End All Wars,” eminent historian Adam Hochschild revisits that pivotal epoch. His 2011 book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 reminds us of the shock provoked by the mass slaughter of the First World War and stands as a rebuke to the callous acceptance of mass violence and war perpetuated up to the present moment by the U.S. government.
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October 31, 2018
The Jazz of Modern Basketball:
Racism and Virtuosity at the Roots of the Golden State Warriors
Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson digs into the long history of basketball as another season begins. The first African-American players entered the NBA in 1950, while black college stars led the USF Dons to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956, inventing a new style of aggressive defensive basketball. Today’s outspoken Warriors embody the decades-long Heritage in which earlier basketball stars pioneered today’s wild improvisational style while resisting the Jim Crow U.S. in which it began.
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Missing Pieces: Remembering Elements of a Gone City
Geographer Dick Walker looks at the formative politics of the region in his new book, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and takes us through the overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes, inequality, and delusion of the current moment. Arthur O’Donnell has methodically documented parts of the City slated for demolition or redevelopment from 2010–2018 in his Bound to Fall photography series. His drive to capture what has been a part of our streetscape aims to give future generations a window into what San Francisco was willing to lose, and hoping to gain. Come to learn and to share your own missing pieces.
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September 26, 2018
Model SF: Collectively Shaping the City
Public Knowledge artists-in-residence Bik Van der Pol have pulled a New Deal scale model of the City—based on 1938 aerial photographs—out of storage crates and into the light. Inspired by the Halprins’ 1970s collective creativity and community planning efforts, their project, “Take Part” will explore local histories with City neighborhood residents as library branches display relevant sections of the model beginning in early 2019. Creators of a 2017 cultural map of southeast San Francisco, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, with cartographer Sofia Valera Airaghi, also ask, “Can we build a collective cultural life together?” Their projects, including Moving Art House, are designed to do just that. Join these artists in a conversation about engaging communities as we look both back and forward. Co-hosted by Public Knowledge, a partnership of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Public Library.
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May 23, 2018
Archives and Memory: New Ways of Making History
How do we “hold” (record/store) history now compared to the past? How do we “tell” history now, and has the relationship between archival sources and narrative arcs/presentation changed with digitalization? What do we learn from narration-free archival materials (a la Prelinger home movies, foundsf photo pages, etc.)? And popular attitudes towards history: who cares about footnotes? How are archivists beginning to shape new ways of making history public? Film archivist and librarian Rick Prelinger, and city archivist/librarian Susan Goldstein, scholar Howard Besser.
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May 9, 2018
More of our lives are being tightly integrated through the commercial social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, private corporations that are monetizing the enormous creative and cooperative activity that takes place there. A movement among tech workers and cooperative activists to create real alternatives through building self-managed platform cooperatives is taking shape. Yes, Virginia, there IS an alternative! The micro-rental economy masquerading as "sharing" is unmasked, and another way forward is explored. Neal Gorenflo of Shareable.net and Melissa Hoover, director of the Democracy at Work Institute, and Dennis Hayes (author and tech writer).
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April 25, 2018
Universal Basic Income, Is It time?
Touted by the tech industry as a way to preserve livelihoods in a time of automation replacing workers, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new concept. As a poverty alleviation idea, it has resonance in the EPIC program of 1930s California, and similar ideas were floated by leaders of social movements of the 1960s, including MLK, Jr. and the Black Panthers in their Ten Point Program. Through a discussion of UBI we take a look at the nature of work and classifying invisible work as work, and open up a larger conversation around economic and racial inequalities. Proponents see UBI as a way to get at a new social contract in the U.S., one that builds trust and a chance for truth and reconciliation. Christian Nagler discusses his research into UBI, including performative economics, economic futurity and forecasting, and the divergent political ideologies held within the perceived prefigurative communitarian movement. Anne Price discusses how UBI differs from the social welfare system in being steeped in racial justice rather than race, and how her work at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland is addressing economic security. Sandhya Anantharaman of the Universal Income Project, an advocate of Universal Basic Income, talks about the radical impacts it could have on society.
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January 24, 2018
Dogpatch Then and Now
Few San Francisco neighborhoods have gone through as dramatic a change as Dogpatch. East of Potrero Hill, once an industrial neighborhood making warships, steel, sugar, rope, and more, where flimsy wooden structures teetered on long-gone hills, the area has had an arts renaissance that is now giving way to high-end condos, the encroaching medical/biotech industry, and even more grandiose plans for highrise development. A microcosm of San Francisco’s history from the 1860s to the present. With Glenn Lym, Steven Herraiz (Steven was sick, and we showed excerpts from his Potrero Hill History Night presentation), and Marti McKee
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December 6, 2017
Popular Front to Cold War
In November 1938, California elected its first-ever liberal Democratic governor Culbert Olson, supported by a state-wide Popular Front coalition of liberals, unionists, communists, and other radicals. But by 1940 the Popular Front forces were already fracturing and from its wreckage emerged key elements of the Cold War. How did Communists help build this social movement, and how did the Communist Party undercut its own principles during WWII? And where did that leave California politics at the end of WWII and the beginning of the long post-war economic boom? With Jonathan Hunt, Chris Carlsson
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October 25, 2017
100th Anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution
Few events in the past century equal the importance of the Russian Revolution. And yet we only know it through the fog of propaganda and fear, and the actual events of 1917 are long forgotten in the mists of time. Find out what actually happened in that fabled year, and how it fit together with the world events of that epoch. Longtime Russian scholar Anthony D’Agostino (SF State) joins Anarchist scholar from socialist Yugoslavia Andrej Grubacic (CIIS) to unpack some of those tangled histories and together we’ll connect it to San Francisco then and now.
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October 11, 2017
Speeding Through the Unseen, From Coding to Commons
Ellen Ullman writes in her new book Life in Code “The penetration of technology into the interstices of human existence is nearly complete,” and then demystifes how humans turn their intentions and ideas into the computer codes that are the language of computers. Katja Schwaller puts “Twitterlandia” under the microscope of her critical gaze, showing how the reconfiguration of mid-Market embodies a larger capture and repurposing of public space by private interests. And Dennis Hayes, a long-time tech writer and author of an early critique of Silicon Valley, brings his own historical and political chops to bear on our current predicament, both obsessed with and deeply oppressed by the technosphere that speeds up our lives to the breaking point even while it presents itself as the answer to everything.
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October 4, 2017
Art and Architecture During the Depression
The Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park recently underwent extensive renovation, bringing to public view murals and sculptures from the WPA that have long been hidden and overlooked. Other beautiful artworks grace public buildings throughout the East Bay and San Francisco, including Coit Tower, and on Treasure Island, where Maritime Museum artists went on to create work for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Join Richard Everett (Maritime Museum), Anne Schnoebelen (Treasure Island Museum), and Harvey Smith (Living New Deal) for a revealing discussion of the art, architecture, and politics that challenged the economic impoverishment of the Depression by inspiring flourishing public art.
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May 3, 2017
Agents of Change: California Labor History
Fred Glass (From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement), takes a long look at the labor history of California with Chris Carlsson, curator of Foundsf.org), who focuses on the ebb and flow of class war in San Francisco.
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February 22, 2017
Crossing centuries and social mores, editors Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus (Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute) and author Clare Sears (Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco) take us into 19th Century San Francisco’s underworld of prostitutes, cross dressers, and others who transgressed the strict gender norms of the time. We look at how normative gender and sexuality were policed and created by widespread mid-1800s laws as well as challenged by gender defiers. Our panelists share the fascinating detective work of the archival research process uncovering these complex and often hidden stories of history.
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