The innovation lab looked like a Santa Ana wind had blown through.
Tables were covered in cut-out newspapers, magazines, cardstock, construction paper, markers, pens, and discarded books from the library. It wasn’t a natural disaster that took place, but the City of Angels’ class creating a hand-made zine detailing the geopolitics of Los Angeles.
Since the start of the school year Rachel Dunham, Nathan Stogdill, and J.D. Gladden have collaborated on the course City of Angels, a multidisciplinary class exploring the city’s literature, environment, communities, history, art, architecture, and public health as a social and scientific phenomenon.
On this day, the previous semester’s worth of learning culminated in a zine entitled, “How to Survive Los Angeles for Dummies,” alluding to the class’s examination of natural disaster and how it affects the denizens of the city. The zine, equal parts playful and a serious examination of inequity in the city, has fun components like a quiz dictating what natural disaster you are and an annotated book passage that shows antiquated language about the Indigenous people of the area.
“We wrote an essay looking at the Woolsey fire in 2018 and how the public reacted to that and then compared that with displacement in Los Angeles to like lower-income and minority communities,” said Charlotte A. ’22. “Communities tend to give a lot of aid, support, and coverage to wealthy families living in Malibu versus displaced people, as far back as Spanish settlers, Japanese internment camps, and to modern-day gentrification.”
The class, a double block, benefits from regular field trips including recent visits to the Autry Museum and L.A. State Historic Park, coupled with readings from L.A. historian Mike Davis and Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange.
The class will transition to a social-justice and action-focused course this semester when Mx. Gladden begins teaching history in conjunction with Dr. Stogdill. The students, who have already metabolized their learning into climate crossword puzzles and earthquake preparedness kits stocked with selfie sticks and In ’N Out essentials, will culminate their learning in project-based, service-learning partnerships with their local communities.