Current Issue

Volume 42, 10

Landscapes are not only produced by “extraordinarily powerful men – and it was usually men – who ruled the region,” write Rachel Brahinsky and Alexander Tarr in A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, but also by those wielding power from the bottom-up: “workers, marginalized and everyday people who fought, struggled, made art, survived, and even triumphed to make home out of the Bay Area in the face of many forms of violence, dispossession, and both literal and figurative erasures” (p. 6). Every entry in this excellent new addition to the People’s Guide series demonstrates the “push-and-pull” of racial capitalism and resistance that has shaped and reshaped the Bay Area since colonization. Struggle, as the authors argue in the guide’s introduction, was as foundational during the Mission era as it was during the Gold Rush, the rise of the university-military industrial complex, Silicon Valley and tech bubbles. Vivid vignettes written for the lay reader – of organizing, rallies, marches, and street-fighting women and men – not only correct the “paradoxical misperception” (p. 8) of a progressive metropolis that somehow emerged miraculously from industrial and techno-capitalism, but also illustrate the co-constitutive nature of racial capitalism and radical, relational commoning, more broadly.

Such landscape work demands an expansive perspective that is both spatial and temporal. One of the book’s aims, the authors tell us, is to decenter San Francisco. Channeling the regional imagination of Mel Scott (1985) and Richard Walker (2018), among others, they bring “the City” into orbit alongside Berkeley, Marin, San Jose, small suburban municipalities and their unincorporated interstices, with Oakland at the gravitational center of a relational economic and social geography. A substantive section on the North Bay and several South Bay entries nicely tie the glass, concrete, and clapboard bustle of the region’s many urban nodes to its agricultural and extractive “contado” (Brechin, 2006), underscoring both the interconnectivity between city and hinterlands and the “lie of the land” (Mitchell, 1996), that is, the human labor and struggle embedded in California’s working landscapes.

The guide is divided into four geographic parts – the East Bay, the South Bay and Peninsula, San Francisco, and the North Bay and Islands – each comprising twenty or so entries of about a page and a half, organized alphabetically. Many of the entries are followed by a shortlist of nearby sites of interest and one or two bibliographic references for those who want to learn more about the events described in the entry. The fifth and final section of the book weaves a sampling of sites together into five suggested Thematic Tours: The Intertribal Bay, Capital and its Discontents, Ecological Imagination, Youth in Revolt, and Militarized States.

Where the book is spatially broad, it is also temporally deep. A timeline – “A Brief and Incomplete Outline of Bay Area History” (pp. 249–250) – stretches back to the end of the last Ice Age, but the guide’s historical depth is present throughout. Many Bay Area histories include at most a thin paragraph on pre-Spanish Ohlone villages and a page or two on the Missions and Mexican ranchos before “history” begins with the influx of ‘49ers. A People’s Guide, on the other hand, describes these pre-US histories as foundational to the production of the regional landscape. Importantly, they center Indigenous spaces and sites of resistance, reflecting a growing (if not long overdue) sensitivity and awareness in American geography about the inextricable linkages between settler colonialism and racial capitalist urbanization. Taking important steps to “story the land” (Goeman, 2013), numerous entries on Indigenous activism – from Cucunuchi’s 1821 rebellion (p. 103) to Alcatraz (p. 196) to the shellmound protests in Emeryville (p. 36) – draw our gaze to the ongoing process of settler colonialism and to the ways in which acts of Indigenous activism continue to shape the Bay.

Landscapes aren’t shaped solely by seismic jolts, but also from slow and steady, often unremarkable processes. Spaces of everyday life can be political simply by virtue of their emergence, existence, and endurance, where “the quiet encroachment of the ordinary” renders “life as politics” (Bayat, 2013). The authors thus caution us to not overlook “the banality” of the “uninterrupted stretch of suburban office parks, strip malls, and cul-de-sac developments” and other quotidian spaces, where “fascinating histories and a dynamic present” tend to go unnoticed (p. 77). Such everyday spaces are among the most powerful entries. Filipinx DJ parties in the San Mateo fairgrounds (p. 112). Punk rock shows and squats along Gilman Street in West Berkeley (p. 24). The homes of the houseless living on the Albany Bulb (p. 26). Cuttings Wharf Housing in Marin (p. 203), Palo Alto’s Lawrence Tract (p. 98), and Richmond’s Parchester Village (p. 60). These are spaces of social reproduction. Connective tissue, vital infrastructure, spaces in which everyday politics unfolded and unfolds in a way that appears less militant perhaps, less explicitly political, but that are clearly spaces of transformation all the same. Spaces of claiming and remaking, of survival, endurance, and celebration.

In this vein, the everyday infrastructures of white supremacy are equally as ordinary. Entries on Piedmont, with its soft-border of traffic surveillance cameras (p. 64) or the rooms of Whitcomb Hotel, which served as the processing center for the internment of Japanese–Americans (p. 150) are powerful examples. But what of the similarly banal spaces that gave rise, for example, to the East Bay Tea Party before they hijacked public planning meetings in Concord, or to the Bay Area analogs to Orange County’s “suburban warriors” (McGirr, 2015), the housewives who ushered in Prop 13 and the Reagan revolution? Perhaps the Eastridge Shopping Center in San José (p. 66) was just such a site. But then again, maybe such attention would work to memorialize these spaces by privileging their stories over those of whom the Guide seeks to center “in support of developing a broader social memory that can lend itself to the creation of a more just world in the present and over the long haul” (p. 5). As each entry does the important work of memorializing, of making and re-making memory, there is tremendous power in determining who and what we should remember and how.

Indeed, in guiding us across space and time through these landscapes, the book does important memory work. It jogs memory. It challenges memory. And it memorializes. What becomes clear is that the work of social memory-making – one of the book’s stated goals – is also personal. The authors encourage us in the first few pages to “put the book down and wander on your own” (p. 4). It is in this way that landscapes are embodied. Whether in reading about these sites or visiting them in person, the emotions that arise, the memories and the visceral, affective connections we create through these moments, do important, transformative work, work that can scale up. A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area is just that, a guide to move us through these landscapes and this self-work. It provides us with an excellent template, not only for other people’s guides and memorials-to-be, but for a way to see, to understand, to embody the landscapes we move through, both individually and in community.

Nathan McClintock Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, Institut national de la recherche scientifique

References Bayat, Asef. (2013). Life as politics: How ordinary people change the Middle East. 2nd ed. Stanford University Press. Brechin, Gray. (2006). Imperal San Francisco: Urban power, earthly ruin. University of California Press. Goeman, Mishuana. (2013). Mark my words: Native women mapping our nations. University of Minnesota Press. McGirr, Lisa. (2015). Suburban warriors: The origins of the new American right. Princeton University Press. Mitchell, Don. (1996). The lie of the land: Migrant workers and the California landscape. University of Minnesota Press. Scott, Mel. (1985). The San Francisco Bay Area: A metropolis in perspective. University of California Press. Walker, Richard. (2018). Pictures of a gone city: Tech and the dark side of prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area. Illustrated ed. PM Press.

To make a guidebook in the age of Google is no easy feat. Even though everything is now “Googleable,” replete with ratings, directions, and app integrations, Rachel Brahinsky and Alexander Tarr thoughtfully suggest in A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area (2020) that “there is still today a much deeper knowledge of a place – not simply information – to be gained from traveling its streets and paths, and talking with the people who have made it” (p. 8). And this is exactly what they guide readers to do in their guidebook, an homage to the many histories and contemporary realities that comprise the Bay Area region’s nine counties. The algorithms of Google – a company that has transformed not only global data capital flows but also the local landscape – might offer statistical data about neighborhoods, but, as they show, it cannot “show you what it feels like to hear infectious K-pop beats coming from a second-floor dance studio that was saved from eviction by community protests, while you eat your lunch in a local taqueria where conversations still take place in Spanish” (p. 8). Yet at that same taqueria, you might hear plans for a newest “smart city” disruption enthusiastically transpiring at the table next to you, while at the table beyond that, labor activists might be strategizing on how to protect their neighbors. And so go the contradictions and cacophonies of Bay Area geographies today that Brahinsky, Tarr, and their many interlocutors narrate throughout.

The places mapped in A People’s Guide are not written from up above with an imaginary “gods eye view” of objectivity (Haraway 1988); rather, they emerge from the ground and through the lenses not only of the authors, but also of the countless people who have fought, organized, and struggled to make the Bay Area the multipatterned place that it is today. There are over 100 sites charted in the book, not to mention ample side panel narratives, photographs, ephemera, maps, and tours narrated from counter-hegemonic perspectives. These perspectives align with those of radical history books such as Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (2014), as well as atlases such as Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite Cities atlas (2010) and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s Counterpoints: A San Francisco Bay Area Atlas of Displacement and Resistance (2021). It also finds thematic alignment with the public history digital archive project, Found SF and its accompanied Shaping SF bike and walking tours. Yet A People’s Guide is not a history book, an atlas, a digital archive, or tour; it is truly a guidebook.

That said, Brahinsky and Tarr have not put together a guidebook for those looking to shop in Union Square, meander past the Painted Ladies, dine at Fisherman’s Wharf, and then spend the night in a fancy Airbnb (perhaps the former home of a longtime evicted resident now racially banished to far away suburbs or perhaps houseless nearby). On the contrary, they recognize how touristification bears gentrifying effects, and have rather created a guide for those wanting to ground themselves in public-geography approaches to place – be they locals or tourists. Unlike other regional guidebooks, they also refuse the pervasive “mythology of ‘San Francisco’” (p. 5), instead weaving together East Bay, South Bay, North Bay, and island geographies.

So many of the sites featured in A People’s Guide are those that emerged out of struggle, whether today or decades or even centuries ago. There is the Mandela Grocery Cooperative, a food justice cooperative in West Oakland that has grown to become a model for similar ventures over the last decade. There is also Marcus Books, the oldest independent Black-owned bookstore in the US, founded in San Francisco by Julian and Raye Richardson in 1960, who then opened up a branch in Berkeley. In the North there is China Camp, once a place of refuge for Chinese immigrants and maritime workers against early 20th-century racism. Further south, there is the Silicon Valley De-Bug in San Jose, a working-class people of color-led media project that emerged to “debug” the Dot Com Boom and that today is standing up against the development of Google’s new gentrifying San Jose campus.

In addition to threading together sites of historic and ongoing organizing, also included are carceral geographies such as the San Quentin Prison, where 4,000 people today are locked in cages, many of whom have been forced into Covid-19 contamination yet who maintain that the real virus to be fighting is that of the prison industrial complex. There is also a map of license plate readers tirelessly patrolling the exclusive white enclave of Piedmont from the rest of Oakland, illuminating what Savannah Shange well describes as progressive dystopianism of the Bay Area, or the anti-Blackness undergirding the myths of liberal triumphalism (2019). Yet as she notes, and as A People’s Guide well attends to, there are also so many spaces, places, and lived realities that reject being reduced to an anti-Black subject of state violence, and that continue to do the work of refusal, resistance, and rebellion, for instance, the Black Seed protest that took place not so long ago on the Bay Bridge also highlighted in the guidebook.

A similar approach is taken in narrating sites of Indigenous genocide and resistance. There is the Mission Dolores Cemetery, where over 5,000 Ohlone and Miwok people were buried after having been subjected to forced conversion, European disease, and being worked to death. Further north, there is the Mission San Rafael Archangel, the burial site of Chief Marin, the Miwok chief for whom Marin County is named. Yet despite the colonial violence that this book repeatedly maps, it also makes clear that settler incursion, while an enduring event, did not result in Indigenous annihilation. There are groups today such as the feminist Ohlone-led Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, which are doing the important work of rematriating stolen land while preserving Ohlone culture and the Emeryville Shellmound – one of the first created and the last remaining 425 Ohlone burial sites of the region, the others having been decimated by settlers, archaeologists, universities, and urban redevelopment projects.

It is projects such the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and Black Seed protest that make Bay Area futures feel alive and hopeful in A People’s Guide. Following Clyde Woods, this guidebook thus refuses to simply render geographic autopsies of the Bay Area (2002), and rather uplifts past and present people’s movements alike, along with the ongoing juxtapositions of everyday life. These snapshots have been rendered with so much care and attention to detail, often captured at unexpected angles. It is one of those books you can pick up time and time again and learn something new from – whether reading it from your home, or while BARTing, bussing, biking, or walking along the routes of one of its several themed tours.

Erin McElroy American Studies and Digital Studies, University of Texas at Austin

References

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. (2021). Counterpoints: A San Francisco Bay Area atlas of displacement and resistance. PM Press. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. (2014). An indigenous peoples’ history of the United States. Beacon Press. Haraway, Donna. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575–599. Shange, Savannah. (2019). Progressive dystopia: Abolition, antiblackness, and schooling in San Francisco. Duke University Press. Solnit, Rebecca. (2010). Infinite city: A San Francisco atlas. University of California Press. Woods, Clyde. (2002). Life after death. The Professional Geographer, 54(1), 62–66. Zinn, Howard. (1980). A people's history of the United States. Harper & Row.

A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area is a beautiful book. I’ll lay my cards on the table at the outset and say that I think it is a tremendous theoretical and practical offering, an immense labor of love, and an act of generosity. There is so much packed into its 271 pages. Through meticulous research and eloquent, lucid, and careful narration, Rachel Brahinsky and Alexander Tarr take readers across the Bay into bookstores, music venues, chemical corridors, co-ops, schools, and places beyond. Their smart pithy analyses of each site – and how it has been forged through struggle – is coupled with reading suggestions, making the text one that is not only useful for longtime residents and travelers seeking self-guided excursions, but also educators and tour guides committed to teaching people to read the landscape reparatively.

In this brief commentary, my aim is to think with the Guide to consider the stakes and possibilities of this kind of public scholarship, critical cultural-landscape study, and popular geography. My first point concerns history. What Brahinsky and Tarr do so well in the book is show us how struggles over space unfold over generations and the importance of preserving the social memory of place. The book made me think more deeply about the relationship between the landscape and the archive.

Historians talk about reading against the archival grain. The historian Peter Fritzsche (2005) writes about archives as not being a “comprehensive collections of things … nor are they arbitrary accumulations of remnants and leftovers … [but] the production of the heirs, who must work to find connections from one generation to the next … . A cultural group that knows itself by cultivating a particular historical trajectory” (p. 16). I share this quote because it makes me think about how the Guide is itself an archive – one that not only preserves a social memory of struggles to remake material condition but that also shows how these struggles live in the landscape. In so doing, the Guide cultivates, in Fritzsche’s terms, a historical trajectory that connects peoples’ struggles from one generation to the next. This critical spatial archive recalls geographer Doreen Massey’s concept of power-geometries.

Massey’s lifelong project was to rework theories of space. How we materially and discursively negotiate space – or what she called space-time or time spaces – mattered, she argued, for how we do research, for how we do politics, and for how we position ourselves to engage in and with the world (Massey, 2008). What I’ve always appreciated about Massey’s framing of space as an ongoing production was her insistence that there is always the possibility to intervene critically and constructively. At the same time, she tempered this idealism with the concept of power-geometries, which names how power and politics are “refracted through and often actively manipulating space and place” (Massey, 2005, p. 166). When space cedes to time, Massey argued, we risk falling prey to what she called “evasive imaginaries” (Massey, 2008). We also miss how space is a “constellation of ongoing trajectories” (Massey, 2006, p. 92), trajectories that are connected across time and distance – or what she referred to as a collection of “stories-so-far” (Massey, 2005, p.9).

Throughout the Guide, Brahinsky and Tarr are attuned to both power-geometries and how spaces are made up of “stories-so-far.” They offer stories of how the past continues in the present. These are stories that chart how what might seem spatially distant is implicated in the here and now – for example, the so-called “native sons” of California’s whitewashed resurrection of the 1789 Mission of San Jose or John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil refinery established in the East Bay in 1902 and contemporary social and environmental justice activism in the fossil fuel corridor. The Guide engages power-geometries and asks their readers “not to look away” (p. 193) from them but instead inquire into what kind of political response they demand.

This brings me to my final thought. By taking us on a guided tour of struggles, past and present, Brahinsky and Tarr invite us into a capacious imaginary of futures otherwise. To be clear, the places they urge us to visit are not all about radical futures. They are also sites shaped by the violence of racial capitalism and white supremacy and the ruins of promised futures. Brahinsky and Tarr show us this. But they are driven by a commitment to document the resistance movements and the struggles that always take place over oppressive structures – for example, on the one hand, there is San Quentin prison, and, on the other, the prison abolitionist organization Critical Resistance.

By attending to communities in the struggle – their cries, aspirations, visions – by listening to and “recording the noise,” as Cedric Robinson (quoted on Osuna 2017, p. 23) called us to do, Brahinsky and Tarr illustrate what’s at stake in the Black radical tradition’s emphasis on studying the past to imagine the world anew in the present. They show us the importance of linking the theoretical and the practical. They show us the stakes of attending to how everyday people theorize – about how society works and about how it should work differently–and how they remake place, such as Black Panther Park, 924 Gilman, and the Drew Center Pharmacy, so that life might be a little more hospitable, livable, convivial, and just. If, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2017) has argued, “freedom is a place” (p. 227) then the promise and stakes of Brahinsky and Tarr’s volume and the People’s Guides Series more broadly is that they show us how people have dared to struggle to make such a place called freedom, and how others might do so too.

Sara Safransky Department of Human & Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University

References

Fritzsche, Peter. (2005). The archive. History & Memory, 17(1), 15–44. Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. (2017). Abolition geography and the problem of innocence. In Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (Eds.) Futures of Black Radicalism (pp 225–240). Verso. Massey, Doreen. (2005). For Space. SAGE Publications Inc. Massey, Doreen. (2006). Space, time and political responsibility in the midst of global inequality. Erdkunde, 60, 89–95. Massey, Doreen. (2008). When theory meets politics. Antipode, 40(3), 492–497. Osuna, Steven. (2017). Class suicide: The black radical tradition, radical scholarship, and the neoliberal turn. Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (Eds.) Futures of Black Radicalism (pp 21–38). Verso.

If I am completely honest, although I write about and do my research in the Bay Area, I have an ambivalent relationship with the region. Even though I consider myself someone who has a deep and layered relationship with the Bay, one I profoundly appreciate, I’ve found that I don’t have the fervent love for the region the way I have experienced others having. My research in the Bay Area was with anti-eviction groups in San Francisco in 2013-2015 and I loved doing this work: attending organizing meetings and anti-eviction protests and google bus blockades. But woven throughout that work were deep narratives about who belonged in the Bay Area and who didn’t, who was legitimately there and who wasn’t. These narratives made sense in the context of how long-term residents felt under siege and were trying to claim their right to stay in the city. But as a New Yorker in the Bay doing research – and someone living in Oakland but organizing in San Francisco, I felt layers of not belonging especially in the context of working with people who were struggling to stay there, and often articulating their love for the place amid dee;p feelings of loss.

I start with this self-reflection because I think A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area does two things that break down some of these dichotomies and complicate narratives of belonging in the Bay Area. First as the authors state in the introduction, this is a guidebook for tourists and for locals but, importantly, I would also argue that this is a guidebook for new residents as well. Over and over again while we were doing anti-eviction organizing in San Francisco new – often tech employee-residents – would ask us what they could do about their impact and our answer was often the same: get involved in anti-eviction organizing, make sure you aren’t living in a unit where someone was evicted, get to know your neighbors and support them if they are under threat, join the housing movement, join our mapping project, use the skills you have to make a positive change, don’t be an entitled jerk. I would now add to that list: read this book and learn about the histories of struggle and power that are deeply embedded in this landscape, know these histories instead of just knowing the romanticized version of the Bay that is so easily sold and consumed, decenter San Francisco and learn about the deep history of social movements that have shaped this place.

As I read through the brilliant A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area I found myself thinking about how the book could be used as an organizing tool. To state the obvious: guidebooks are usually written for visitors or tourists. They aim to make these people feel like insiders or in the know whether this is through the history of a place or guiding them to authentic experiences. But belonging in the Bay Area especially as a place filled with intensely gentrifying landscapes and the deep layers of loss and struggle that this encompasses is a fraught issue for many. And that is why A People’s Guide is so essential and brilliant: it is a guidebook of the Bay Area that in highlighting power and struggle and how the region has been intimately shaped by these dynamics of power and struggle offers a geography that is neither for tourists or local, newcomers or long-term residents but cuts across these divides. Instead, it makes the point that this history and these embodied geographies are essential and that everyone has something to learn from them. In that sense, the book is a guide to landscapes of power and struggle but also a deep archive of movement history – which is the history of the Bay Area. In this way, I think that book is more than a guidebook but also an organizing tool, one that is so carefully documenting, explaining, contextualizing, and pointing out these important spaces of struggle can and should be used by activists in the Bay to build on these earlier struggles. Because as you learn as you read through the guidebook, with its emphasis on “viewing the region through a push-and-pull framework” (Brahinsky and Tarr, 2020, p. 7) and how the region has been shaped by “the public sensibility about the Bay Area as politically radical” that also has roots in “authoritarian state control or corporate power” (ibid) many of the current struggles in the Bay, over housing and wealth inequality, racial justice, environmental racism, police killings and racism and immigrant rights, speak to earlier struggles and histories that have shaped these current dynamics.

As I kept reading the book, learning about struggles and places I had never known about before, I thought that perhaps my ambivalence about loving the Bay Area has come from thinking that I must be in love with it to appreciate it. That is that I must love the Golden Gate bridge or the fog or the hills – those stereotypical images of the Bay – and overly romanticized ones that still permeate so much of the thinking about it. A People’s Guide cuts through these romanticized images, as a good piece of critical geography must do, to frame how the idea of San Francisco, permeates popular representations about the region. Instead, to move away from this, the book argues for “the Bay Area to be understood not as San Francisco and its surroundings, but as an integrated region, where over time, communities intersect and shape each other, challenge each other, and forge the networks of power and identity that give shape to this place.” (Brahinsky and Tarr 2020, p. 4). This interconnectedness is key, both the interconnectedness of place and region that is highlighted as well as the interconnectedness of struggle, social movements and history that shapes this place.

Manissa M. Maharawal Department of Anthropology, American University

Reference

Brahinsky, Rachel, and Alexander Tarr. (2020). A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area. University of California Press.

We want to start these comments by extending deep thanks to our reviewers for their generous engagement and feedback, both in this review symposium and in the 2021 American Association of Geographers’ “Author Meets Critics” session that preceded it. That they carved out time to respond to our scholarship, even as the COVID-19 pandemic dominated and complicated so many aspects of life and work, means so much. We also thank Urban Geography for making this space for us, a year after the book’s release, to collectively think through the ways that A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area speaks to the field. In responding to our reviewers’ comments, this essay is focused around three central ideas. We consider the meaning of the public-facing structure of our book. We explore ways in which collaboration made the book, and, ideally, continues to shape the way that it lives out in the world. Finally, building from comments from our reviewers, we consider some possibilities for pedagogy that we see in the book’s structure and content.

First, we would like to engage with the question of how this book can be read, or used by different audiences. While it is designed, like all books in the People’s Guide series, to appropriate and subvert the format of a tourist guide book to a city, A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area makes a potentially frustrating guide book for anyone trying to plan a tourist weekend. Our book won't necessarily reveal the best spot for a selfie at an iconic vista or the hottest nightspots for consuming all the city has to offer. Instead, we highlight places like the South Bay’s Gold Street Bridge, a place in which historical significance may not be immediately obvious. For those that make the trip out there, we’ll walk you through some of the clues that mark this bridge as spanning a deep divide with buried histories: Alviso, a beautiful but disinvested place on one side of the bridge, looks across to the opulent futurism of Silicon Valley on the other. When we followed those clues, we found ourselves working through layers of local history, from the agricultural migrations that created worker settlements like Alviso, to the economic relationships that shape the Bay Area today. We hope readers will wander the place, with respect, and learn to read the signs of place and power. So, we bring you along with us, but we also ask readers to do some work.

In this way, the book is not offered as a definitive take on the region, and in fact we would argue that such a thing cannot exist. Instead, we view it as a guide towards a series of questions, an outlook, which may help reveal the signs of true placemaking, rather than the making of places for sale. Our book engages the Bay Area as a place in which to enact and live those questions. At face value, then, the book challenges mainstream tourist narratives of San Francisco, and it is our hope that the format – which we think of as scholarly work presented in the form of a guide – signals that it is meant for a wide set of publics. At the same time, we mean for the structure to engage a broader conversation on the practices of critical urban geography in the very places that it lives, out in the city itself. We see this as one of our core interventions within the field of geography: it may be that much of the work of understanding places needs to happen in those very places.

The collection of reviews here flatter our book’s engagement with urban geography via cultural landscape studies, place, and critiques of racial capitalism, and we appreciate how those connections are seen and made – in some cases beyond what we originally intended. We hope that we’ve done this in a way that enables readers who may not already be well-versed in scholarly theories and methods to see that they too are, or can be, producers of knowledge about urban geography through their own experience and critical observations.

This connects to our second point about the different ways collaboration is woven through the work of this book, from its production all the way through (we hope) each time it’s picked up by a reader. While our reviewers note that we co-authored much of the book, we want to emphasize contributions from an incredible group of Bay Area scholars who offered their essays, photography, and research assistance–all of which we edited to give the book a cohesive voice. Those contributions, alongside Bruce Rinehart’s photographs and Alex Tarr’s maps, shaped our thinking about the enterprise of a “people’s geography” writ large. An important piece of this, for us, is the part we may never know in detail, which is what happens when readers take the text and use it out in the world. We focused on certain stories of each site, but we know that there are many more stories that matter about each place. We hope that people will be moved to document those stories, and that the broader work of learning with places and communities is boosted by our book.

Finally, we would like to highlight a point referenced in our reviews: the promise of our guide as a pedagogical tool. While we certainly hope the book is read and used by individuals, we want to highlight its potential use in collaborative learning environments, as an alternative textbook for the situated study of urban geographies. The introduction to the book lays out our approach to understanding an urban region via the relationships between sites, stories and forces that produce the cultural landscape. The book then provides dozens of examples of the kinds of knowledge those methods produce. In this sense, readers need not be students or residents of the Bay Area to find the book useful.

At the same time, the volume really is meant to provide a very different kind of survey of Bay Area geography than someone studying the region might usually encounter. In lieu of famous namesakes and important dates to be committed to memory, and eschewing abstract models applied to whole regions, we hope that the book invites students to grapple with the complexity of intersecting narratives that give the Bay Area an always dynamic sense of place. Meanwhile, as with any project, we are acutely aware of the book’s limits and what it is missing, in no small part due to the geographic and historic scope of the project. Still, beyond our own hopes and ambitions for A People’s Guide to the Bay Area, we are again grateful for the ways of reading and thinking with the book that the reviews included in this book review symposium make possible.

Rachel Brahinsky & Alexander Tarr Politics & Urban Studies, University of San Francisco Earth, Environment & Physics, Worcester State University