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Alec Stewart

“From Swap Meet to Main Street: Multiethnic Commercial Landscapes in Southern California at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century”

Alec Stewart

University of California, Berkeley, Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies

Stewart’s research explores the relationships between consumer culture, racialization, and citizenship formation in the commercial built environment. Focusing on everyday practices of remodeling and reuse, it examines how immigrant entrepreneurs have repurposed retail and industrial buildings and, in doing so, have revitalized urban landscapes. His book project, “From Swap Meet to Main Street,” analyzes the spatial and social environments of Latinx- and Asian-oriented malls and indoor swap meets in Southern California between the late-1970s and the 2010s. It argues that while such retail spaces often appear to cater to a single ethnic group, they more often constitute inter-ethnoracial crossroads where hybrid identities and urban citizenship claims are negotiated. Highlighting the intercultural qualities of these public realms, the project addresses the dearth of scholarship on relational racialization in the commercial landscape. 

Alec Stewart received his PhD in architecture (History, Theory and Society) from the University of California, Berkeley. He holds a master’s degree in geography from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of California, Berkeley. His field of study encompasses twentieth- and twenty-first-century architectural and urban history, and he is particularly interested in researching and teaching about suburbanization, public space, race and ethnicity, and material and consumer cultures. Stewart integrates cultural landscape methods including fieldwork, ethnography, and archival materials into his research. With a background in city planning practice and almost a decade of teaching experience, he is committed to promoting socially just urbanism.