This course studies the cultural life of the city from its days as a Spanish settlement named Yurba Buena to the present. This particular version of the course treats the historical and cultural life of the city as coextensive with modernity—modern capitalist development, including “progress” and its ideologies. Because the city of SF is bound-up with modernity, it is something that is still happening, something that we are all participating in and working through. This is why my versions of the course have been subtitled A History of the Present.
This is a fun class where we learn about all the dirty stories from the 19th century, the gossip—sin! vice! murder!—and the unique characters of San Francisco. But we will also think seriously about place and exclusion, the genocide of native peoples, and the history of race in the city, particularly with regard to Chinatown. We will also study gender and its constructions, sexuality, nature, commodification, prostitution, trans history, image and spectacle as they relate to everyday life in SF modernities. Significant cultural works, places, and events, will be studied in relation to the material history of the city.