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Children of Anarchy: San Francisco Upheaval in the Summer of 1967

Presented atThe Prolonged Death of the Hippie, 1967–1969, Basel (Switzerland), 14th September 2019, p. 9
Publication date2019

Joan Didion's “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” written in 1967, famously documented “the social hemorrhaging” on display in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, with children, barely adolescents, at the forefront. This paper argues that Didion's choice of title, opening lines, and overall narrative approach are a deliberate effort to foreground San Francisco not just as a site of “social hemorrhaging,” but as something far more comprehensive: as the epicenter of societal destruction and rebirth in America, amid a scene of “mere anarchy” being unleashed. From the “Eden” that she compares California to in a separate essay, the state has now devolved into something far more ambiguous in the late 1960s, returning back to the ever-present Didion question: how to figure a true Californian sense of place, when that same place is ravaged by disorder. As Didion's “Slouching” unfolds, it parallels and engages with the apocalyptic predictions and visions in William Butler Yeats' poem “The Second Coming,” which she features as an epigraph to the collection that includes “Slouching” and from which her essay draws its name. The paper analyzes whether a compromised sense of place propelled the apparent “death drive” of the hippie movement that Didion describes witnessing in the summer of 1967, linking the choice of Haight-Ashbury as a gathering place for the children of the hippie movement to Didion's extended analysis of California in her other works as a site of inherent contradictions, confused origin myth, and conflicted sense of place. The paper draws on examples and theories from the fields of human geography, semiotics, theology, and narratology to make this case.

  • Joan Didion
  • California
  • Human geography
  • Hippies
  • Literature
  • Roland Barthes
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem
  • William Butler Yeats
Citation (ISO format)
BALINO RIOS, Sofia Alicia. Children of Anarchy: San Francisco Upheaval in the Summer of 1967. In: The Prolonged Death of the Hippie, 1967–1969. Basel (Switzerland). 2019. 9 p.
Main files (1)
  • PID : unige:125069

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