Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Schlegel on ethnic neighborhoods, the self, and the city
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
An Oblique Perspective, Perhaps is the oblique title of an interesting new paper by John Henry Schlegel, University at Buffalo Law School, SUNY. Here's the abstract: Nineteenth Century ethnic neighborhoods grew out from the city center in the same way as contemporary geographic areas do - by a species of suburban growth much like a conveyor belt, where the wealthiest residents move into the newest homes and the rest of the community tends to move up leaving the oldest housing for the newest immigrants. These immigrant communities were usually centered in ethnic language Catholic parishes, though in the case of North Germans or Scandinavians, in ethnic language Protestant churches. Immigration reform in the years following World War I stopped this conveyor belt and when significant population growth began again in the years following World War II, the ubiquity of the automobile allowed these ethnic communities to disperse beyond central city limits, breaking the bond between ethnic community and ethnic parish or church. This dispersion may have fostered the intense concern for the self that was derived from the insecurity brought on by the decline of the American economy in the 1970s, as well as the particular form of religiously based politics that appeared in these years. Methodological notes about the relationship between law, religion and economic life and about the asserted relationship between modernization and secularization close the piece.