California Ideology Conference Paper Submissions Open

January 01, 2024

California Ideology Project (UCHRI) at UC Santa Cruz

Conference held April 6-7, 2024

Paper submission deadline: January 26th, 2024 at midnight PST

 Speakers: Massimiliano Tomba, Banu Bargu; additional speakers TBA.

California, the place and the idea, may seem sunny and exceptional: in its economy, its politics, its
culture. It promises a unique form of dynamism and levity, a fantasy that has always seemed both singular and
fundamentally American. Yet, in the midst of unfolding global catastrophes – climate collapse, new wars cold
and hot, the rise of the far right, etc. – California’s uniqueness appears increasingly phantasmagorical. While
moving images of California palms continue their work of seduction, the doom scroll of our lives is produced
as much by Hollywood and Silicon Valley as by anywhere else on Earth. Our research group, The California Ideology Project, grew out of a related suspicion: that California, rather than being a refuge against the rise of American fascism, may rather present something like its vanguard.

We recognized, for instance, a relation between California’s long history of white supremacist eugenics,
including the forced sterilization of thousands of disabled, incarcerated, and impoverished Californians, and
the preoccupation with biological perfection, as in contemporary phenomena like Los Angeles’ booming plastic surgery and wellness industries, and Silicon Valley’s obsession with bio-hacking and physical optimization.

Relatedly, we noted California’s continuing history of racialized internment and mass incarceration. In fact,
many apparently “Californian” proclivities of today–like the affinity for occultism and the conflation of
“wellness” and pseudoscience–were well-documented in the mid 20th-century, particularly by members of the
Frankfurt School Institute for Social Research, a group of German intellectuals who were exiled to California
during and after WWII. These thinkers acknowledged resonances between the effects of industrial culture in
California and in the Nazi Germany they had just escaped. Using resources from sociology, cultural criticism,
art, philosophy, and political science, the Frankfurt School researchers provided insight into the ways that the
reality of California’s politics and culture converged and diverged from both mainstream politics and culture,
in the US and in Weimar-era Europe, as well as from California’s own sunkissed auto-fictions.

Inspired by such historical and empirical studies in and about California—as an image, an idea, and a
place—we are hosting an interdisciplinary conference dedicated to exploring the various dimensions of the
enduring paradoxical character of the Golden State. Taking a critical approach to the California Ideology as
described by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron in the 1990s, this conference is animated by three entwined

· How do we understand those processes that blur or obfuscate the relationship between California's
self-image and its history, political economy, and culture?

· To what social need does the image or actuality of California promise fulfillment?

· And what seemingly benign, or even potentially liberatory, phenomena that appear emblematic of
California might, counterintuitively, serve as signals of the growing threat of the far right?

We welcome abstracts (300-500 words) for papers that should be suitable for a 20-minute presentation (3,000
words), followed by a short Q+A. We welcome papers from any discipline addressing the issues discussed
above, or the following topics:

· Image production and consumption
· The image in Hollywood
· The image in Silicon Valley
· Frankfurt School in California
· Fascism in California
· Poets of California
· Disney
· The military-industrial complex
· The border-industrial complex
· The prison-industrial complex
· Migration and deportation
· California as a utopia and/or dystopia
· Eugenics and “human betterment”
· The politics of surf culture
· Social movements in California
· Anti-intellectualism in California
· The hippie movement
· Silicon Valley
· Central Valley agriculture and immigrant
· Nature and natural sublimity in California
· Religion, spiritualism, and occultism in
· California, libertarianism, and the far-right
· California and finance capital
· California housing and real estate
· Antifascist, anti-capitalist, and abolitionist history, theory and practice
· Multiculturalism, tolerance, and NIMBYism

Please email all submissions to Kyle Proehl at

On the first page of your submission, please include your name, institutional affiliation, and contact
information. Decisions will be sent out in early February 2024.

If you have any questions, please contact Cara Greene at and/or Shaun
Terry at

This conference is supported by a grant from the University of California Humanities Research Institute.