Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles

By Gaye Theresa Johnson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
“Teeth-Gritting Harmony
Punk, Hip-Hop, and Sonic Spatial Politics

To reawaken, in the midst of a privatized and psychologiz-
ing society, obsessed with commodities and bombarded by
the ideological slogans of big business, some sense of the
eradicable drive towards collectivity that can be detected, no
matter how faintly and feebly, in the most degraded works of
mass culture just as surely as in the classics of modernism—is
surely an indispensable precondition for any meaningful
Marxist intervention in contemporary culture.

—Fredric Jameson1

In order to understand the importance of spatial entitlement, we have to do more than just recognize the ways people assert entitlements to new and different spaces. We have to identify how aggrieved groups invest critical meaning into the spaces and situated identities they inhabit in everyday life. Yet the critical value of these meaningful spaces is not always easy to distinguish, even by the members of the communities that contain them.

When conservative economic policies produce joblessness, poverty, and declining infrastructure, an outsider’s observation of a low-income neighborhood may yield only the most obvious indicators of economic inequality. It may be impossible to see how a dilapidated backyard becomes a weekly venue for music performances or how a discarded industrial warehouse can become an unauthorized cultural center. It may be even more difficult to distinguish why those spaces would hold spatial and historical significance for a community that has a seemingly compelling interest in overcoming the obstacles produced by their spatial location.

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