A settler society reproduces architecturally: Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió, Designing ‘Post-Industrial Society’: Settler Colonialism and Modern Architecture in Palm Springs, California, 1876-1977, PhD Dissertation, Columbia University, 2019


Abstract: The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation was established in 1876, the same year as the transcontinental Southern Pacific Railroad completed a station in Palm Springs. These overlapping events would both enable and problematize the settler colonization of the Agua Caliente’s land, creating a checkerboard pattern of “fragmented jurisdiction” that was fundamental for its transformation into one of the wealthiest resorts in the United States. The territorial conflict between the Tribe and the U.S. would only begin to be legally resolved in 1977, when the Agua Caliente won the right to zone and plan their own lands. This dissertation examines how architecture, urbanism, and infrastructure mediated the technical, legal, and ideological struggles that took place in this period; sometimes enabling Imperial dispossession, other times structuring Tribal assimilation and decolonization. The dissertation historicizes and theorizes these processes by examining the modern architecture and urbanism of Palm Springs as a specific settler-colonial, “post-industrial” mode of development which was made possible by the particular territorial configuration that emerged out of nineteenth century Imperialism. It posits a correlation between settler colonialism and the settler imaginaries and material processes of technological progress, capitalist accumulation, natural resource extraction, and cultures of leisure that were uniquely developed in Palm Springs through modern architecture. Critically dismantling the connections between modern architecture, “post-industrial society,” and settler colonialism, this dissertation argues, is a necessary condition for the development of decolonial epistemologies and strategies of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist resistance.

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