Pitzer College, 1050 North Mills Avenue, Claremont, CA 90011



Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1998

M.A. in Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1994

B.A. in Civilizations, California State University, Dominguez Hills, 1990


Fields of Specialization

Urban ethnography, gangs, crime, violence, prisons, drug trade, law, autonomous social groups, visual culture, qualitative research methods. Ethnographic area: United States, Los Angeles, African American and Latino neighborhoods.


Academic Positions

Assistant Professor, Pitzer College, 2002-present.

Courses taught: Gangs; Prison: Theory, Ethnography, and Action; Qualitative Methods in Applied Research; Social Change Practicum; Critical Community Studies; Environmental Internships; Advanced Research Practicum; Visual Anthropology; Language, Culture and Society.

Lecturer, Art Center College of Design, 2001-2002. Courses taught: Symbolic Anthropology; Urban Art and Expression.

Lecturer, UCLA Department of Anthropology, 1998-2002.

Courses taught: Urban Anthropology, Technology and Power, Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology, Visual Anthropology, Symbolic Systems, Language and Identity.


Administrative & Research Positions

Academic Director, Pitzer in Ontario Program, Pitzer College, 2004-present.

Provide direction for semester-length community-based research program in Ontario, California, with accompanying coursework in methods, internships, and urban studies.  Projects: bike cooperative, urban farming/food justice, foreclosures, immigrant labor, education, architecture, youth organizing.

Director, Center for California Cultural and Social Issues, Pitzer College, 2002-2007.

In charge of developing and maintaining community-based partnerships for pedagogy, research, and community development in the fields of environmental justice, immigration, education, art, health, juvenile justice, and drug rehabilitation. Staff supervision, fundraising and budget development. Involving approximately 130 students per year with four core partners and numerous affiliated partners.

On-Site Researcher, Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, 2000-2001.

Jobs Plus program: Imperial Courts Housing Development, Watts, CA; William Mead Homes, Northeast Los Angeles. Provided liaison between MDRC and public housing sites, wrote reports, in charge of outreach, interviewing, supervision of 1 staff and research in support of community development job placement program.

Research Assistant, California Black Women’s Health Project, 1995-1996.

Provided community outreach in Pueblo del Rio Housing Development and Vernon-Central neighborhood.


Academic Grants and Fellowships

Soros Justice Media Fellowship-U.S. Justice Fund, The Open Society Institute, George Soros Foundation, New York, NY, 2008.

Harry Frank Guggenheim Research Grant. Project title: “Operation Fly Trap: Police Suppression and Gang Violence in Los Angeles,” 2005.

Historical Society of Southern California, Haynes Foundation Research Award. Project title: “Pachuco, Hobo, Union Logo: Historical Graffiti in L.A.,” 2001.

Chancellor’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, University of California, Los Angeles, 1997.

Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities: Pre-doctoral Fellowship. Getty Research Institute Scholar year: “Perspectives on Los Angeles: Narratives, Images, Histories,” 1996.



Operation Fly Trap: Gangs, Drugs, and Law. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.  Forthcoming, Spring 2012.

“Tattoo Removal: Three Snapshots.”  Visual Anthropology Review. Volume 27, Number 2, Fall, 2011. (Three poems with accompanying images).

(with seven additional gang scholars) Brief of Academics on Gang Behavior as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner Albert W. Florence:Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, et al., No. 10-945 in the Supreme Court of the United States, 2011. Topic: strip-searching and gang tattoo.

“Gang/Anti-Gang Strategic Networks.” In Justice et Injustices Spaciales. Bernard Bret, Philippe Gervais-Lambony, Claire Hancock, Frédéric Landy, eds. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2010.

“Crip Walk, Villain Dance, Pueblo Stroll: The Embodiment of Writing among African American Gangs.” Anthropological Quarterly. Volume 82, Number 1, Winter, pp. 69-97, 2009.

“Notes from the Margins: Graffiti, Environment, and Community in Los Angeles.” Journal of the West, Special Issue-Los Angeles: Urban Community in the West, ed. Kenneth Marcus. Volume 48, Number 2, Spring, pp. 35-42, 2009.

“La Historia de Gallo: El Tatuaje en la Vida de un Pandillero Chicano.” Edgar Morin, ed. Tinta y Carne. Mexico D.F.: Cultura Contra Cultura, 2009.

“Physical Graffiti West: African American Gang Dance and Semiotic Practice.” In Carrie Noland and Sally Ann Ness, eds. Migrations of Gesture: Dance, Art, Film. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

“Gangs.” Encyclopedia of Urban History, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, 2007.

“Gallo’s Body: Decoration and Damnation in the Life of a Chicano Gang Member.” Ethnography. Volume 2, Issue 3, 2001.

“Photographic Mistakes on a Gangster Holiday.” In Looking for Los Angeles: Architecture, Film, Photography, and the Urban Landscape. Michael S. Roth and Charles Salas, eds. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute Publications, 2001.

“Gangs as Social Groups.”  Legal brief submitted for the immigration asylum case of Alex Sanchez, 2001.

Exhibit Review Essay. “El Nuevo Mundo: The Landscape of Latino Los Angeles. Photographs by Camilo José Vergara.” American Anthropologist, 103 (1): 1-8, 2001.

Wallbangin’: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Library Review Journal: A Best Book of 1999. Selections reprinted in McGraw-Hill’s introductory textbook Sociology and in Hayden/McNeill’s Cultures of the United States.

“Graffiti.” The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1996.

Selected Papers and Presentations

“The Gang-Drug Nexus: Ethnography, Rhetoric, and Suppression.” Soros Justice Fellows Meeting, Open Society Institute, Miami, FL, 2010.

(with Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld)  AAAs

Co-organizer and presenter. Panel “Anthropological Contributions to the Study of Gangs: Potentials and Futures,” American Anthropological Association meetings, San Jose, CA, 2006.

Conference Participant, “Children in Armed Conflict.” Centro Incontri Umani, Ascona, Switzerland. Sponsored by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, 2006.

Moderator. “The South Central Farm: Planning Issues.” Avenue 50 Studios art gallery, Highland Park, CA. Panelists: Clara Irazábel and Diego Cardoso, 2006.

Moderator. “Old-time L.A. Graffiti, with Ralph Lopez-Urbina.” The L.A. River Oral History Project, Hillary Kaplan. Not a Cornfield Oral History Project, 2006.

Discussant. Panel, Youth Cultures in America. Urban History Association Conference. Milwaukee, WI, October 18, 2004.

Invited Speaker. “Pachuco, Hobo, Union Logo: Historical Graffiti in L.A.” Panel, L.A. and the Built Environment. Historical Society Annual Conference, Gene Autry of Western Heritage Museum, 2004.

Keynote Speaker. “Narrating between Environment and Community.” Conference: Los Angeles: Environment and Community. University of La Verne, 2004.

Moderator, “Gangs on Art, Art on Gangs.” Conference, Art Matters in Education, Juvenile Justice, and our Community. Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. October 2, 2003.

Paper presented. “Dancing Violence: The Crip Walk as Memorial and Loss.” Panel, Writing Culture. American Studies Association Meetings, Houston, TX, 2002.

Conference Participant. “Make it Last Forever: Tattoo Removal at an East L.A. Clinic.” Symposium, Fleeting Objects, Enduring Communities: New Approaches to Material Culture, University of Iowa, April 5-8, 2001.

“Crip Walk, Villan Dance, Pueblo Stroll: The Embodiment of Writing among L.A. Gang Members.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Panel, Writing and Embodiment in Three Cases. Panel co-organizer, 2000.

“Criminal Piety: The Virgin of Guadalupe in Chicano Gang Representation.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Panel, Image Hunting: Capturing Visions of the Religious across Culture and Time. Panel co-organizer, 1999.

“La Historia de Gallo: El Tatuaje en la Vida de un Pandillero Chicano.” Paper presented at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, Tattoo conference. Mexico City, Sept 23, 1998.

“The Ideology in Chicano Gang Graffiti.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Society for American Archaeology. Panel, Ideology: Costs and Returns, 1998,

“Graffiti as the Homegrown Artform.” Colloquium presentation for curators of LACMA’s millenium exhibition Made in California: 1900-2000. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Nov. 8-9, 1997.

“Gang Graffiti: Scandalous Graphic Designs.” Paper presented in the lecture series Conversations: On Community and Visual Power. Georgia State University, School of Art and Design, Atlanta, GA, 1997.

“Enmity and Alliance among Los Angeles Bloods and Crips.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Panel, Ritual Practice: Studies of Identity, Resistance, and Alliance. San Francisco, CA, 1996.

“Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Studying Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Association of American Geographers. Panel, Fieldwork under Fire. Charlotte, NC, 1996.

“Material Links Across Gang Lines: The Chicano Gang Cognitive Boundary System.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, Atlanta, GA, 1996.

Co-organizer and Presenter: “Panel Discussion on Graffiti.” Professor Peter Sellars, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993.

“Graffiti of the Los Angeles Uprising.” Poster presented at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Session,Current Issues in Anthropology. Washington D.C. 1993.



Wallbangin quoted in Utne Reader blog, The Sweet Pursuit. “Culture Jamming, Surenos-style.”  Friday April 1, 2011 by Michael Fallon.

Wallbangin quoted in Los Angeles Times. Article, “Chaka, from Graffiti to Gallery,” by Mike Boehm, April 24, 2009.

Quoted on gang hand signs in Boston Globe. Article, “Signs of the Times,” by Drake Bennett, May 4, 2008.

Interviewed in Bomb It: The Global Graffiti Documentary, by Jon Reiss, 2008.

Radio appearance, KPCC “Talk of the City” with host Kitty Felde—topic: Style Wars Rerelease with Tony Silver, April 29, 2003.

Radio appearance, KPFK “The Daily Review” with host Luis Rodriguez-topic: at-risk youth, March 29, 2002.

Radio appearance, KPCC “Air Talk” Larry Mantle–topic: book/gangs, December 13, 1999.

Television appearance, KCOP “In Focus” News program–topic: book, November 23, 1999.

Radio appearance, NPR “Latino USA” with Maria Hinojosa–topic: book/graffiti, October 1, 1999.

Television appearance, KCET “Life and Times: People, Places, Things” with Warren Olney and Val Zavala–topic: book/graffiti, September 20, 1999.

Radio appearance, KPFK “Beneath the Surface” with host Joe Dominick topic: gang injunctions, July 29, 1999.

Radio appearance, KPFK “Beneath the Surface” with host Joe Dominick– topic: book/graffiti, July 15, 1999.

Radio appearance, KPCC “Talk of the City” with host Kitty Felde–topic: book/graffiti, July 14, 1999.



Spoken: Italian (good), Spanish (fair)


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