Speech story – Dr. Zilberg’s talk

For our final paper, we were assigned to write a story about a speech or talk given on campus. I chose to write about Dr. Zilberg’s speech about the preservation of the Los Angeles River. Written fall 2016. 

Zilberg analyzes the Los Angeles River for Huth Memorial Lecture Series

     Dr. Elana Zilberg stressed the importance of urban river revitalization in her presentation for the 2016 Annual Huth Memorial Lecture on Nov. 28.

Zilberg is an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego and works as the University’s communication department coordinator. She is also the principal investigator for UC San Diego’s Studio for Ethnographic Design.

The Mary Jo Huth Memorial Speaker Series is held every year in the Science Center Auditorium during the fall semester at the University of Dayton. Sponsored by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, the series honors Dr. Mary Jo Huth, a former sociology professor and department chair who passed in 2003. Professors of the department nominate a speaker and all vote on it. Dr. Miranda Hallett, assistant professor of anthropology, nominated Zilberg as this year’s speaker and was lucky enough to personally invite her to Dayton.

“Dr. Zilberg has been a huge inspiration for me,” Hallett said. “We both have done ethnographic research in El Salvador, I’ve always looked up to her.”

Zilberg’s presentation titled “Bridging Divides: Re-Engineering the Racial Cartography of Los Angeles through Urban River Revitalization” analyzed the Los Angeles River area and the revitalization strategies currently being implemented in California. The LA River is known for being a dry area that lacks full flowing streams of water. People who live in surrounding areas of the river, mostly those of color, are exposed to metals and toxic wastes within the water. Anthropologists have critiqued the river and have seen it as a symbol for forgotten rivers as a result of pollution and overall urbanization within cities.

The main goal of the urban revitalization project is to rebuild the Sixth Street Bridge. The bridge previously connected the bustling downtown LA area to the working class neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The bridge was demolished earlier this year and is expected to be completed in 2019.

Architects working on the project hope the redesigned Sixth Street Bridge will connect the two separated cities within LA. Both cities are made up of people who have different backgrounds, ethnicities, and economic statuses. Zilberg states how bridges are usually a sign of connecting people, but on the contrary, the Sixth Street Bridge is a border due to the divide of people living in each city.

“I thought the talk did a good job of uncovering the many unseen effects of urbanization within cities,” said Dr. Theo Majka, a sociology professor who specializes in urban sociology and immigration at the University of Dayton. “People who live in big cities never deeply analyze the world around them.”

The future bridge will incorporate green spaces and walkways to encourage pedestrian activity. River clean up activists believe the renewal of the bridge will promote environmental justice and LA unity.

“Cities are now attempting to save their rivers,” Zilberg said. “We have to imagine the river being thought of in the same breath of other great rivers in the future.”

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons



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