Reading and Analyzing Space: Steven Flusty’s “Building Paranoia” and Intertextuality

“Building Paranoia” is a chapter from Steven Flusty’s book Building Paranoia: The Proliferation of Interdictory Space and the Erosion of Spatial Justice (1994). In this chapter, Flusty reads, or analyzes, the city of Los Angeles as a text, focusing specifically on the proliferation of wealthy, gated communities, what he calls “interdictory spaces–spaces designed to intercept and repel or filter would-be users” (48).

If any of Flusty’s descriptions of space – jittery, slippery, crusty, etc. – sound familiar, it’s no wonder. Even Purdue’s campus is rife with them. For example, Purdue’s live feed from its campus security cameras can be accessed by anyone on the internet.

As the author takes us through L.A., he reads the landscape through the lens of other texts, including television shows and historical events – he sees intersections of landscape/space and cultural references, creating a rich web of meaning.

County Map of Los Angeles.

By asking how these other texts relate to and/or speak to one another, Flusty situates his analysis of L.A. in a larger context. Flusty’s chapter is a strong example of what we all intertextuality.

DEFINITION:

inter– (between) + text  (a body of writing, or any composition that we “read”) = meaning created between two texts that reference or speak to each other.

Intertextuality (n.): the whole network of relations, conventions, and expectations by which a text is defined; or the relationship between texts, specifically references within a text to other texts or media.

Example: When the media criticized Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” as a rip-off of Madonna’s earlier “Express Yourself,” they were accusing Gaga of not recognizing the intertextuality between her song and the work of her predecessor in a meaningful way.

INTERTEXTUALITY

Dragnet

“Advertisements tout security features with the Dragnetian brevity of ‘gated with twenty-four-hour drive-by security’” (Flusty 50).

The Twilight Zone

“One thing we have probably noticed since out walk began is the eerie absence of people, like in one of those ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes where some poor rube wanders around a depopulated theme park” (Flusty 50).

The Twilight Zone opening theme (1959-1964 version):

The Twilight Zone: “Where Is Everybody?” Episode (Pilot)

The 1992 Los Angeles Riots (page 52).

Photo from The Los Angeles Public Library.

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