||An extreme form of residential concentration; a cultural, religious, or ethnic group is ghettoized when (a) a high proportion of the group lives in a single area, and (b) when the group accounts for most of the population in that area. Although the practice of ghettoization â€” forcing a group to live separately within a city â€” originated in the urban quarters of pre-classical cities, the first use of the term occurred in late medieval Venice, where city authorities required Jews to live on a separate island (called gheto) that was sealed behind walls and gates each night (Calimani, 1987). Exclusion was imposed by the dominant culture and, as such, reflected and reinforced the marginalization of the Jewish minority. However, while the ghetto was overcrowded and prone to fire and disease, Jews also gained some benefit from their enforced isolation, especially the right to practise their religion and legal system and, perhaps, a degree of protection from more drastic forms of persecution (Wirth, 1928).
Instances of complete ghettoization have been rare (two modern exceptions are the Warsaw Ghetto of the Second World War and designated areas for black residential settlement in South African cities during the apartheid regime). Early in the twentieth century, the term came to be used indiscriminately for almost any residential area identified with a particular group, even when it did not form a majority, and even when segregation was not the result of discrimination. This ambiguity was especially prevalent in the influential work of the Chicago sociologists (see Chicago school), who even referred to a wealthy neighbourhood in the city as the \'gilded ghetto\'.
Researchers began in the 1970s to call for more analytical precision. Philpott (1979), for example, distinguished between \'slums\', areas of poverty that residents (frequently immigrants) leave as they acquire the means to do so, and ghettoes, areas where residents are trapped in permanent poverty (also see Ward, 1989). Also, ghettoes should not be confused with ethnic enclaves, areas dominated by a single cultural group. Ghettoes emerge when political and/or other institutions, such as the housing market, operate to restrict the residential choices of certain groups, channelling them to the most undesirable neighbourhoods. They are the product of racialization (see ethnicity; race), where particular minority groups are judged by the majority to be genetically and socially inferior. There is always a degree of involuntary behaviour in the formation of ghettoes, whereas ethnic enclaves arise when members of a group choose to live in close proximity (Boal, 1976; Peach, 1996a).
The situation of African-Americans in the US is typically seen as the defining example of contemporary ghettoization (see Darden, 1995). In the 1960s, some American social scientists began to assert that ghetto environments are so debilitating that a \'culture of poverty\', associated with high crime rates, substance abuse, broken families, and a reliance on social services, is transmitted from parents to children (cf. cycle of poverty). These alarming views were instrumental in the \'war on poverty\' declared by the US government, and were important ingredients in the inauguration of urban redevelopment programmes, increased social spending, educational reform, and heightened policing and surveillance of the inner city (cf. urban renewal). These initiatives were largely withdrawn in the conservative 1980s, but the argument that ghettoes should be the focus of public policy was revived later in the decade as part of the underclass debate. Again, proponents of this thesis believe that ghettoes are not just places of grinding poverty, but also places where poverty is institutionalized (Wilson, 1987). Similar arguments have surfaced in the United Kingdom (e.g. Rex, 1988; but see Peach, 1996b for an alternate view).
As in the Venetian case, though, ghettoes, once formed, frequently provide a context for the maintenance and development of minority cultures; ironically, these oppositional cultural forms are sometimes embraced by the dominant culture (e.g. the many types of music pioneered by African-Americans).Â (DH)
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