California is the Golden State and a state of mind, both a gateway and the end of the line. Its name comes from the 16th-century Spanish romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandián, in which the mythical Queen Calafia rules an island of powerful Black women, rich in gold, called California. When Spanish explorers adopted the name of this chimeric island for the lands they seized, they inaugurated a history in which utopian promise and settler-colonial violence became twined at the root.
Today, California has the fifth-largest economy in the world and the largest economy of all U.S. states. It leads the nation in agricultural production and is the center of the tech, entertainment, and aerospace industries. It has more national parks than any state, and its public university system is without parallel. California also has an acute housing crisis, and 30% of all people in the country experiencing homelessness reside in the state. The gap between high- and low-income families is bigger in California than in all but three other states. California is also the least literate state.
The IHC’s 2023-24 public events series, Imagining California, will address the contradictions and contestations that define California. Throughout the year, academics, activists, journalists, artists, and writers will draw from perspectives in the humanities to consider the dreams that have informed California’s past and new imaginings that can inspire its future.
The IHC invites suggestions for series topics and speakers. Please contact IHC Director Susan Derwin (email@example.com) with your ideas.