The CSA was founded in 1989 by Jeff Lustig, then Director of the Center for California Studies at California State University-Sacramento. Lustig brought together a group of like-minded California scholars, writers, and leaders across the state and began the first of many annual CSA conferences. (To view the programs of past conferences, visit the Past Conferences page on our main website.)

Prior to launching the CSA, Lustig did a survey of California studies courses and programs across the CSU system. In it, he discussed the rationale for California Studies — a justification still well worth reading for anyone working in the field. The full report is available here as a PDF download.

Lustig was Chair of the CSA from its inception to 1999 (he stepped down as Director of the CSU-Sacramento Center in 1994). Subsequent chairs have been Michael Black (1999), Glenna Matthews (2000), Dick Walker (2001-05, 07), Lee Davis (2005-06), Louise Dyble (2007-08), Peter Richardson (2008-2011),  Lincoln Cushing (2011-2013), and Rachel Brahinsky (2013-present).


The California Studies Association (CSA) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to inquiry on California as an idea and as a unique region. The CSA promotes an inclusive discussion on the future of this richly textured state.


The CSA embraces the broadest spectrum of concerns about California: people, politics, economy, environment, science, arts, history, and literature. Through its programs, the Association creates a public forum for the discussion of California in the past, present and future. The Association studies California as part of the world, the worlds that exist in California, and all their shared outcomes.

The CSA is committed to the notion of public education in and about California; it serves as a network for California Studies programs at all educational levels. The Association includes people from all walks of life. It features the contributions of everyone who studies California, makes a contribution to the state, or seeks to express the fabric of this diverse society. The CSA values the cross-fertilization of ideas between fields of expertise and around the state, and emphatically maintains a balance of academics and non-academics in its leadership, membership, and activities.

The CSA seeks deeper bonds among all Californians and a stronger sense of the commons, through networks of small and large institutions, across diverse communities, and among activists, experts, civil servants, writers, artists and performers. It promotes the search for equitable ways to live and work in California, and more enlightened public policies that serve the broadest definition of the people of this state and their many experiences.

The CSA connects critical thinkers committed to a deeper understanding of justice, memory, and the struggles across the state’s many communities and histories. The Association encourages a candid discussion about power and the conflicts that have shaped this state.


The CSA is based at the California Studies Center, IRLE, University of California, Berkeley 94720.

The CSA was founded in 1990, under the leadership of Jeff Lustig, Professor of Politics, CSU-Sacramento.


The leadership of the CSA is an elected body comprised of a Steering Committee and a Chair. All of us are volunteers.

Past Officers


To learn more about the CSA,
read our organizational bylaws
or contact us to find out
how you can get involved.