Infrastructures of Hope: Taking Care of Medicine in Southern California

Deanna Day, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Monday, April 3, 2017 - 12:00pm

Chemical Heritage Foundation (Philadelphia, PA)

315 Chestnut StreetPhiladelphia, PA 19106

For the first time in half a century, it is possible to take a train to the City of Hope.
The City of Hope medical center, which contains a clinical research center, graduate medical school, and hospital, is located on a sprawling campus in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. It began its life in 1914 as a tuberculosis sanitarium, supported by local fundraising and enabled by a national rail network that brought the suffering to Southern California. Today, it is known as one of America’s best cancer centers, connected by the freeway network to other regional research institutions but more remote from the poorer, more transient patients it once served.
Using a mix of archival research and oral histories, this talk explores both the successes and failures that enabled City of Hope to be maintained through multiple periods of crisis, as the diseases it specialized in were cured and its infrastructural connections to the greater Los Angeles region changed. I expand feminist theories of “taking care” to incorporate the maintenance of the broad infrastructure of medicine, including the research and clinical staff who both do their work and continually fundraise for it, as well as the urban planners who change how the medical campus is accessible.
Its long history and reputation notwithstanding, City of Hope contradicts the myth of “stable” institutions, illustrating how maintaining institutional continuity is only possible through the staff work of continual redefinition and restructuring. I will examine several key instances of this institutional care work, from the founding of an early-20th-century charitable institution to the impact of being once again reconnected to 21st-century Los Angeles by rail.