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Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea

Mitchell Duneier.
Publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
ISBN 9780374536770
Pages/Publication Date 292/2017
Daedalus Item Code 79177
This item is not available.
(A 2016 New York Times Notable Book of the Year) On March 29, 1516, the city council of Venice issued a decree forcing Jews to live in il geto—a closed quarter named for the copper foundry that once occupied the area—and the term stuck. In this incisive, eye-opening account, the author of Slim's Table and Sidewalk traces the idea of the ghetto from its beginnings in the 16th century and its revival by the Nazis to the present. As sociology professor Mitchell Duneier shows, we cannot comprehend the entanglements of race, poverty, and place in America today without recalling the ghettos of Europe, as well as earlier efforts to understand the problems of the American city. We meet Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake, graduate students whose conception of the South Side of Chicago established a new paradigm for thinking about Northern racism and poverty in the 1940s. Psychologist Kenneth Clark subsequently linked Harlem's slum conditions with the persistence of black powerlessness, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan created controversy with his report on the black family. We also see how sociologist William Julius Wilson redefined the debate about urban America, as middle-class African Americans increasingly escaped the ghetto and the country retreated from racially specific remedies, as well as education reformer Geoffrey Canada's efforts to transform the lives of inner-city children with ambitious interventions, even as other reformers sought to help families escape their neighborhoods altogether. Duneier offers a clear-eyed assessment of the thinkers and doers who have shaped American ideas about urban poverty—and the ghetto, giving us a valuable new estimation of an age-old concept.

"Stunningly detailed and timely.... In Duneier's impressive and comprehensive volume, readers will find a greater sense of the complexity of America's problem of racial inequality, as well as the urgency—practical and moral—of solving it."—NYTBR

"In Poland in 1949, W.E.B. Du Bois recognized the 'Negro problem' in the former Warsaw ghetto, drawing a parallel Mitchell Duneier explores with discernment. Focused on particular thinkers in particular times, Ghetto reveals how social science actually operates. The result: a brilliant combination of breadth and sharpness, of thought-provoking questions and clear-sighted answers, of Jews and blacks in cities across the Western world."—Nell Irvin Painter

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