2011 Global Seminars
The Global Ghetto
Rome, Italy, and Krakow, Poland, June 9 - July 23
“The Global Ghetto” will be taught in Rome, Italy, at St. John’s University, Rome Campus, and in Krakow, Poland, at Jagiellonian University, from June 9 to July 23, 2011. The course is led by Mitchell Duneier, professor of sociology at Princeton University, and Alice Goffman *10, a research fellow in health management and policy at the University of Michigan.
This seminar traces the birth and spread of the ghetto as a social form and as an idea throughout world history. It begins in Rome with the earliest Jewish residential zone in a European city, and ends with the contemporary Muslim neighborhoods in the Paris suburbs. The inquiry includes an exploration of early modern Jewish ghettos of Frankfurt, Prague and Venice; Nazi-controlled ghettos in Poland during World War II; Jewish immigrant ghettos of early 20th-century New York and Chicago; and black ghettos in northern U.S. cities from World War II to the present. The course not only traces the spread and evolution of the ghetto concept but also explores how the social form emerged in different historical moments, and what people inside and outside have made of the experience.
The European Jewish case serves as a point of departure to put the modern U.S. experience in a broader comparative context. Students will examine the important socio-historical phenomenon around the restriction of stigmatized minorities and question whether a concept rooted in the Jewish experience is actually an appropriate model for comprehending the U.S. black situation.
The course combines visits to former ghetto apartments, synagogues, streets, and markets with classical historical readings to understand the rich community and family life that helped the Jews maintain themselves through centuries of persecution. It emphasizes the way that these ghettos became physical receptacles that aggravated pathology, thus illustrating classic sociological readings on the significance of physical space in constraining the life chances of ghetto dwellers. The seminar concludes with an exploration of current debates about the transformation of “ghetto” from a place inhabited by blacks and Jews to a trait referring to bad taste, or black culture, or poverty around the globe.