Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World: Volume 8


Table of contents

(13 chapters)

List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Volume eight of Research in Urban Sociology focused on race and ethnicity in New York City. Our original idea when planning that volume was to contrast the ethnic landscape of New York City with that of Los Angeles, and to suggest that while the outpouring of studies from the Los Angeles School proclaims that Los Angeles is different from other cities – and thus is a signifier of the metropolis of the future – the creation of new ethnic landscapes is hardly limited to Los Angeles. Indeed, there is a rich history of both older and newer scholarship concerning ethnic communities in New York City, and we sought to update both the research and to offer a point of comparison between the studies of Los Angeles and other cities.

In the flowery days of the 1960s, many scholars supported the modernization paradigm, by which developments in the industrialized world would override ethnic and other divisive categories. Sociologists foresaw the spread of modernization and its prevalence over tribal identities; Marxists (semi or neo) pointed to the overlap of ethnicity and class in societies in which particular stigmatized ethnic groups, such as gypsies in Hungary, or Falashas3 (Beta Israel) in Ethiopia, were congregated in the lower social and economic echelons of society, according to occupational specialization and low income. According to the socialist paradigm, class ties would emerge as authentic ties binding like-minded people, and ethnicity would come to be seen as a mere facade for class.

Because of the recent interest on the globalization process generated by global restructuring, the local as the site where this change occurs has emerged as a principal entity for study. Divergent opinions have developed that either downgrade the importance of the local and focus instead on flows, transnational social structures, and translocal spaces or that highlight the centrality of the local as a cause or as a result of globalization, thereby maintaining the traditional focus and emphasis on place as either container, process, or setting.4

Discourse among the media and general public has associated the term ‘multicultural’ with multiculturalism; however, Tiryakian (2003, p. 22) argues that the two should be seen as analytically distinct but empirically complementary. In its demographic-descriptive meaning, the term multicultural refers to cultural or ethnic diversity or the coexistence of different cultural groups within a particular locality; in this sense it represents heterogeneity over homogeneity. This descriptive approach, adopted by governments and public officials in Australia, describes those spaces shared by a variety of groups as ‘multicultural’. I want to confine this particular construction of multicultural to the category of ‘multiethnic’. On the other hand, the word ‘multiculturalism’ alludes to a normative category and refers to philosophical arguments regarding the legitimacy of claims surrounding the recognition of particular identity groups. The normative view accepts that pluralism and diversity are good in themselves and assumes that all difference should be valued and given a voice in the public realm. This version of multiculturalism has been evident in the United States, but has come under increasing attack by neo-conservatives. In its programmatic-political dimension, couched in liberal terms in Australia, multiculturalism pertains to policies designed to respond to the problems posed by diversity. Advocates of such policies believe that they foster toleration and equal opportunity. Another category entails an attitude towards the cultural ‘other’ and refers to an inter-subjective mode of being. The typology constructed here is based on a continuum consisting of monocultural, multiethnic, multiculturalism, and multicultural and will be used to interpret a city's relationship to its diverse population. This typology also raises some interesting questions. How many different cultural groups need to exist within a designated urban space before a city can legitimately or authentically represent itself as ‘multicultural’? Can one judge to what extent a city is multicultural based on the type of social interaction that exists among culturally-diverse groups? If multiculturalism extends beyond a demographic phenomenon, then it is possible to distinguish multiethnic cities from multicultural cities. These questions and issues can also shed light on the politics of representation.

This paper contributes to the analysis of the relationship between sociological discourse on ethnic relations and social changes produced by immigration in Italy. It is organized in three parts. The first part investigates the reasons that until recently prevented European and Italian academic debate from using the concept of ethnic minority to analyze international migration.

Dominant in the urban sociology literature on immigrant incorporation is the role of ethnic enclaves – ethnic neighborhoods that provide a “port of entry” or “context of reception” and help facilitate incorporation in the host society by generating informal resources, networks, and institutions that provide linguistic and cultural services and products (Portes & Rumbaut, 1990). While New York City's stature as a global city is replete with nostalgia about historic ethnic immigrant neighborhoods, contemporary immigrant settlement is once again transforming urban landscapes not only by renewing enclave formations but by creating numerous multiethnic, multiracial neighborhoods (Hum, 2004). As often cited, in no other historic period has New York City received as diverse a range of people from all over the world – certainly, this diversity is reshaping local neighborhood landscapes.

The racial diversity of the Caribbean stemmed directly from the historical processes of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and indentureship. Since the early 17th century, slaves have been imported from Africa to work in the Caribbean. In the British West Indies, slavery was abolished in 1834 but these African slaves worked on the sugar estates until the apprenticeship was abolished on August 1, 1838. Even before 1838, planters frequently complained of labor shortages and appealed to Britain for the approval of imported labor. Thus, there were attempts by the planters in colonies, such as Trinidad, to introduce Chinese labor to the plantations. As early as 1806, there was the importation of 192 Chinese from Macao and Penang into Trinidad. However, this experiment soon failed. In 1834 and 1839, laborers from Portugal were imported into Trinidad. This soon ended as Portuguese workers could not withstand the rigorous conditions of the contract labor system.

Attachment to place is a positive emotional bond that develops between individuals and their environment (Hunter, 1978; Altman & Low, 1992). It is a state of psychological well-being experienced as a result of the accessibility of place, or conversely a state of distress set up by the remoteness of place (Giuliani, 1991). This attachment is important because it generates identification with place and fosters social and political involvement in the preservation of the physical and social features that characterize a neighborhood. In fact, a number of studies have shown that the stronger the neighborhood attachment, the more likely individuals are to develop a set of norms and to exert effective formal and informal social control that reduces crime (Sampson & Groves, 1989) and to fend off attempts to change the social and physical nature of the area (Mesch, 1996).

Since the early 1990s, I have conducted fieldwork in the Bolivian city of El Alto, investigating the effects of urbanization on Aymara migrants who move from the countryside (campo) to the capital in search of employment, education, and a better life. El Alto is perched above La Paz, spreading out across the high plain (Altiplano) and increasing in size by nearly 10% each year. Although neighborhoods (barrios) in El Alto are often defined by geographic boundaries and population density, I argue that the concept of community is based upon trust (confianza). In El Alto, one's lineage eclipses heritage, as residents are more apt to define their “community” as those they trust rather than those who live near them or friends from the campo. For two years, I lived with Alvaro and his extended family at the periphery of El Alto, in the barrio of Huayna Potosí. Over time, he introduced me to other migrants, such as Teófilo, Pablo, and Marcelo, and their families, each of whom originated from different provinces near Lake Titicaca. In essence, migrants have similar bucolic backgrounds and skills which they implement in the city in order to survive, heightening competition for employment and suspicion between neighbors.

Osaka, with roots historically as deep as the Japanese state itself, reached what Hall refers to as a “golden age” first (Hall, 1998), only to be surpassed in the later 19th and 20th centuries by Tokyo, a backwater fishing village until the 17th century. Differences between Tokyo and Osaka begin with the function of each city, the physical structures, economic bases, and political practices of which all interacted to create the urban fabric into which the Korean migrants moved.

In this paper, I explore the role of the imagination in the construction of meaningful places out of the transnational corporate spaces of the late-20th century global economy. As others have made clear, there is a politics to the social imagination that achieves its most onerous effect in the ethnic/racial/gendered/national stratification of the global workforce.1 In this regard, I wish to consider how the colonial imagination operates within an urban terrain occupied by a diverse population united (however tangentially) through the exigencies of the global economy. I take the colonial imagination as a key component of a broader transnational socio-spatial imagination through which Indonesian and Western-born members of the transnational capitalist class make sense of a complicated social geography to which neither is, strictly speaking, indigenous.

We shall regard the market here in its two meanings: (a) as an institution regulating trade within a society, and (b) as a kind of organization of urban space. The market as an obligatory element of the urban structure becomes increasingly stratified in the transitioning society. Even the recently emerging big supermarkets, foreign in origin and whose initial design was to become a form of mass offering (of goods and services), in Bulgaria have created a zone of restricted access and, for those with the means, a place for self-confirmation through demonstration of their purchasing power.

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Research in Urban Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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