What explains California?

This course explores this question through place and bioregion, individual┬áhistories and collective narratives of identity and culture, ideals and representation–all of which feed into the “California dream.”


Panama California Exposition, 2015

Students will explore the historical myth and material reality of the Golden State through indigenous cultures and narratives of exploration; waves of immigration and demographic change; the presence of racism and multicultural history and identity; water, orange groves, and agribusiness; cities and suburbia; political corruption and capital crimes; money and Hollywood moguls; technological booms and busts; film, fiction, and fashion; popular music and poetry; sex, drugs, rock and roll; narratives of self-actualization and alienation; the emergence of surfing and skateboarding; skiing, mountaineering, and rock climbing; television, sports, and celebrity culture.

What explains California?


Safeway – United Farm Worker’s Grape Boycott, National City. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego


Marie Ueda. 1978 San Francisco Gay Day Parade. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. San Francisco


Page of First Edition of Mary Austin’s The Land of Little Rain


W.D. Carter. Overland Mail Route to California Broadside. 1866. Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley


Herman Baca, San Diego-based Chicano activist, 1979. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego


California Grown