Department of Geography

College of Liberal Arts

California State University, Long Beach


Abstracts of Conference Presentations


Dr. Unna I. Lassiter

"The Social Construction of Authenticity and Attitudes toward Animals," to the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, March 2002.

Given increased wildlife-human conflicts, protracted difficulties of negotiating compromise for the environment, and the heavy demands of enforcement, conservation biologists have expressed the need to better understand the social aspects of conservation biology. My goal is to propose a typology of how social characteristics enter into the acceptance or rejection of various ways of knowing animals (making scientific education more or less effective); different conservation initiatives; and particular animals and the contexts in which they live. This work is based on anthropologist James Clifford's investigation of the social construction of authenticity and discriminative taste in the arts, from fine arts to crafts. From this I have articulated a typology of how authenticity is ascribed to particular animals and their related contexts, according to various ideologies and attitudes ranging between anthropocentrism and biocentrism. This work differs from most attitudinal research in that attitudes are understood as processes involving geographic scales of influence, namely global (economic and political trends), local (socio-cultural characteristics and mediating institutions), and individual (basic environmental values, knowledge of animals, species preference, interactions with animals) contexts and their influence on pulic attitudes toward animals.

Dr. Lassiter also presented:

"Cultural Diversity and the Construction of Marine Animals," to the Association of American Geographers, New York, March 2001.

The relationship between cultural diversity and attitudes toward marine animals is examined on the basis of an understanding of culture as a place-based process, and a focus of the local level where attitudes are socio- culturally mediated (between individual and global levels). This research employs qualitative approaches in order to more directly understand how and why particular attitudes emerge. Such explanation was premised on recent research in animal geography that highlights the role of identity formation and disenfranchisement in defining how animals are considered. In a first part, focus groups with inner city low income women of different ethnicities (African American, Latina, Chicana, Chinese, Filipina) were organized in Los Angeles, to identify the spectrum of attitudes toward marine animals, and dimensions of urban diversity (such as culture, class, socio-demographics and ethico-political stances). Interviews were also conducted with managers of local Marine Animal Oriented Organizations (MAOOs) to clarify how they are positioned vis-a-vis cultural factors and difference. Analysis showed that culture plays an important role in the formation of attitudes toward marine animals. Specific processes of identity formation emerged, related to oppression and to privilege, and were expressed in cultural contests. Science was key in this struggle for dominance, as was cultural relativism, and these processes were highly dependent on place. This research exemplifies how more explanatory understandings of attitudes can be provided, demonstrates the importance of considering culture in the process.of attitude formation, and helps to explain the persistence of non mainstream practices and attitudes. Some of the novel aspects of this work also include a focus on the attitudes of inner city ethnically diverse women and of managers of a range of MAOOs, and an emphasis on marine animals. The research was also carried out through approaches rarely used in attitudes toward animals research. Finally, the conceptual framework was significant in its distinct geographic emphasis on place.


Dr. Terence Young


"Nature's Pilgrims: American Camping from 1869 to 1940," to the American Society for Environmental History, Denver, March 2002.

The modern idea of camping, as a recreational end in itself, appeared with America's post-Civil War urbanization. Escaping their everyday lives, middle- class city dwellers began to camp in rural settings where they could take up a leisurely, if temporary, relationship with nature. During the Nineteenth Century and into the beginning of the Twentieth, locations relatively close to home satisfied most enthusiasts because of the difficulties and costs associated with long-distance camping. Starting in the 1910s, however, an army of campers began to seek both rural and wild nature across the American landscape as innovation and mass production reduced the costs and improved the technology of cars, camp stoves, lanterns, sleeping bags, tents, and other equipment.

Drawing on the work of anthropologists Mary Douglas and Victor Turner, I will argue that campers were urbanized anti-urbanists who could not abandon the city so instead took to this recreation as a form of pilgrimage back to the city's antithesis, "nature." Like other exculpatory rituals, camping employed a set of formal behaviors and myths to guide its practitioners into contact with this sacred source of Americaness. When properly practiced, immersion into the "purity" of the natural environment cleansed campers of the "dirt" of urban life and re-invigorated them for another round of city life. Conversely, even though campers shared a common goal, they grew more socially and spatially isolated from each other during these seven decades as technological innovation fostered new camping modes and provided access to an expanding array of "natural" yet disjunct destinations. This process of segmentation and isolation has continued into the present, increasing the frequency and intensity of conflicts among campers over the allocation of the limited resources available for the many modes and locations they enjoy.

He also presented:

"GIS and Public Participation Planning: Recommendations from Hollywood, California," to the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, 19-23 March 2002.

In the last 150 years, planning has become an expected feature of urban management and generally been run as a top-down, expert-driven process relying ever more heavily upon complex technologies like Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In recent decades, however, critics have called for less emphasis on formal expertise and greater public participation (PP) in planning. PPGIS emerged during the last five years as a process to reduce the technology's negative consequences, but as the participants in a 1998 National Center for Geographic Information & Analysis workshop noted, PPGIS practitioners need metrics to assess both their products and processes, possessing little understanding or documentation of successful or unsuccessful endeavors and the reasons for their outcome levels. In my presentation, I will begin by comparing the approaches and assumptions embraced in PPGIS with those current in the larger and older Public Participation Planning and Design (PPPD) literatures to illuminate issues and possibilities slipping by geographers. Next, I will report the reactions of residents in ethnically diverse, older neighborhoods in east Hollywood, CA to GIS in community environmental planning. USC researchers gathered their views during a series of focus groups and telephone surveys in Summer 2001. Finally, I will analyze the PPGIS and PPPD approaches in light of these field results to recommend how GIS might better be employed to meet the needs of community groups.


Dr. Stephen R. Koletty

"L.A. Pacifika: Pacific Islander Communities in Los Angeles," to the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, March 2002.

The closing decades of the twentieth century witnessed increasing numbers of Pacific Islanders leaving their island homes for the urban centers of the Pacific Rim. This movement has resulted in the formation of an archipelago of islander communities up and down the U.S. west coast, particularly in Los Angeles. Virtually invisible in the multiethnic urban cacophony that is Los Angeles, these commlunities now represent important population centers of Pacific Islanders, and have become island places in their own right. Islanders have been able to transplant important features of their village life and culture. This expression of traditional islander values and institutions across international boundaries and world inequalities defines a new geography of Oceania. This paper locates the various communities of Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians, and other Pacific Island people in Los Angeles. I discuss their significant attributes, and examine elements of their emerging urban culture including continuing linkages to their home islands and also collaborations between the different islander communities.

While there, Dr. Koletty also conducted two field trips, "Ethnic LA (1) Latino, Korean, and African-American Areas" and "Ethnic LA (2) Industry and Mexican and Chinese Areas."

Additionally, he presented:

"Tiki L.A. -- Geography of an Urban Exotica," to the Association of American Geographers, New York, March 2001.

Portrayals of the South Pacific in literature, in art and especially in film have long captivated the public imagination. This fascination has left its imprint on landscapes quite distant from the region. For a variety of reasons this imprint has had a particularly marked effect in Southern California. Infatuation with the South Pacific mystique reached its heyday during the fifties and sixties with the proliferation of Polynesian themed nightclubs, restaurants, motels and other commercial establishments. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in what has come to be called Tiki culture. This poster presentation examines the stylistic forms and distribution of the unique visual features of Tiki Culture that still embellish the urban setting of Los Angeles. Interestingly, their distinctive geography contrasts sharply with settlement patterns of actual Pacific Islanders now residing in the city.


Dr. Nurudeen O. Alao

"Development as Tension-Driven Process," to the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, March 2002.

The paper argues that development in geographic space results from an interplay of tensions or conflicts which can be rank-ordered according to their potential for accelerating or retarding spatial development.That potential will vary with the historical and environmental characteristics of the geographic space as will the rank-ordering of the conflicts.It argues that although many and varied definitions of development exist in economics and geography,a meaningful conception of development must include three ingredients: a)sustained flow of goods and services which confers high quality of livelihood ; b) enlargement of opportunities and facilitation of access to the latter in accordance with civilized rules which treat all citizens as equal; c)a sustained system gravitation towards diminishing income inequality and a sustained system progress towards welfare equalization.These ingredients result from tensions between growth and inequality, between capital accumulation and brain drain, between uncertain market signals, incomplete market structures and wrong-headed central commands, and between import substitution and export promotion. The analysis is shown to be capable of explaining the empirically observed varying regression relationships between growth and spatial inequality in different regions as well as the paradox of resource-rich countries failing to develop.


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Last revised: 02/05/05