"Seeing Community in a Multicultural Society:
Theory and Practice"
Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
Murray Koppelman and Professor Emeritus
The City University of New York
Experience and Perspectives of Multiculturalism:
Croatia in Comparison with Other Multicultural Societies
Croatian Commission for UNESCO
Published as: "Seeing Community in a Multicultural Society: Theory and Practice." In Perspectives of Multiculturalism: Western and Transitional Countries. Zagreb: Croatian Commission for UNESCO, FF Press, 2004: 151-177.
Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
The City University of New York
Brooklyn, New York 11215
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jkrase@brooklyn.cuny.edu
The National versus the Multicultural State, and the tension between common citizenship and cultural diversity, is ultimately a practical local problem. The question of "How is it possible for different groups to share residential territory?" is also a symbolic or semiotic one. My mentor Feliks Gross argues that the elementary bonds of human society, which are the roots of legitimacy of any state, can be reduced to two: Common Descent which is expressed in consanguinity or kinship, and Territoriality, most often recognized in neighborhood. Relatedly, Ernest Renan defined the nation as "… a soul, a spiritual principle. Only two things, actually, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is the past, the other is the present." (Renan, 1996: 52) Modern nations are a new concept and a result of "fusion of population which composed them." (Renan, 1996: 44) As a nation of immigrants, America was ethnically diverse from the very beginning and therefore citizenship was destined to be all-inclusive. Recent American history, however, continues to demonstrate that this is a constant work in progress. According to Gross the working conditions for a culturally plural society are recognition of the right to, and respect for, different norms, cultures and goals; a set of accepted and shared norms; acceptance of rules of the game and proper procedure; and legitimacy of the norms of a pluralistic state. My own modest contribution to understanding and managing cultural diversity is the development of visually based methods for multicultural education and interethnic relations in urban community settings. Although primarily US based, my photographic and observational research includes how as a consequence of globalization immigrant cultures have changed the meanings of spaces in Berlin, London, and Rome and have thereby challenged notions of common community.
While planning for my first, and only, sabbatical in 1994, I wrote a proposal to the Fulbright Foundation sections on the Southern, and the Central/Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States: "Lecturing in the Spatial Anatomy of Interethnic Relations: European and American Cities." Although I did not receive the honor of a Fulbright, during the spring of 1997, I spent a semester on a Kosciuszko Foundation and Polish Ministry of Education Fellowship at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow where I taught a course on "Multiculturalism in American Urban Life" in the American Studies Center. Today it is fitting to revisit at least the introduction to that prescient proposal here in Dubrovnik where we are considering the "Experience and Perspectives of Multiculturalism: Croatia in Comparison with other Multicultural Societies."
"Many American and European cities are experiencing the influx of large numbers of people from cultures distinct from native-born residents. Mass migration is not a new phenomenon; human history can be seen as either the cause or effect of one or another process of population movement. In few areas of the world have the contours of culture and politics been more shaped by migration than southern and central Europe.
Although diverse people frequently live within the same large-scale political boundaries, the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life. Because of modern technology and world systems, increasingly, "cultural strangers" share common environments. For social scientists and humanists the ultimate question becomes; "What makes it possible for different, even hostile groups, to live together in smaller scale city, town, and urban neighborhood environments?"
Some urban places have a long history of dealing peacefully with such in-migration. Many others do not. Compared to the kaleidoscopic ethnic and racial diversity of major cities in the United States, new migrants to Europe are settling and forming their own subcommunities in relatively homogenous urban places. The way that native born city residents respond to these new invasions will set the tone for the future of intergroup relations and a more "open" European society." This paper is divided into three parts, all of which deal in some way with the notion of community and diversity. The first, based primarily on my reviews the work of my mentor Feliks Gross, considers the interrelated ideas of ethnicity and citizenship. The second introduces the American Model of Community as a dramaturgical, visually confirmable, social reality, and the third is a pedagogy for teaching ways to recognize community in multicultural urban settings. As an adjunct to the paper is a selection of photographs illustrating the many ways by which community is presented and represented in multicultural urban environments.
Citizenship and Ethnicity
The answer to the question of what makes it possible for people who are different from each other to live in peace has been a perennial quest for Gross. In Citizenship and Ethnicity perhaps the capstone of his life’s work, he reminds us that multiethnic states are not new phenomena. For millennia diverse groups have been bound together by coercive means, but that to do so by consensus called for different techniques and principles. “Such an association of different peoples, ethnic groups with equal rights for all, free of discrimination by public authorities, necessitates the need for a common bond that would embrace all, a broad bond, and in the hierarchy of accepted standards, one that rises above ethnic or racial identification; in a word, a common denominator for all. Citizenship is such a bond; it is also a vital common denominator.” (Gross, 1999: xiii)
As to both kennen und wissen, Gross understands the subject of citizenship intimately. He hastily left Poland some six decades ago, and also had been denied the opportunity for a university appointment as he once put it, “… because of my religion, origin, and political views.” (Gross, 1986: 563) His distinctly Euro-centric approach to the subject of inter-group relations and the modern political state fits the mold of what most American sociologists might recognize as the ”Classic Tradition,” a perspective hardly appreciated in an academic environment more sensitized today to political correctness, ideological multiculturalism, and the growing anti-discipline of cultural studies. His approach is due in no small measure to his university training in Jurisprudence, and the law and legal institutions are a primary focus for his scrutiny. It is understandable that Gross sees the United States of America as a model Civic State; a multiethnic state founded upon the principles of democracy. He does not, however, ignore the current reality of the United States, where relative degrees of prejudice and discrimination survive, but recognizes both its past accomplishments and its future potential. His optimism is theoretically grounded upon the principle that the “humane and civic ways” of dealing with issues of difference are imbedded in the initial political culture of a state.
As Gross learned to appreciate a mythic America, through him I have come to appreciate an equally mythological Europe and “The Western Tradition;” which incidentally places me outside the Pale in my own discipline of choice. As I was not blessed with a classical education, the trappings of scholarly traditions which I occasionally demonstrate were learned in association with him on projects such as a 1977 Seminar on Ethnic Policy in New York City that sadly presaged the growth of divisive ethno-politicking in New York City mayoral elections. Finally, Professor Gross and I are both, for want of a better term, “pre-post-modernists.” In one of the many rather futile attempts I have come across to define Post-modernism (without it becoming a treble entendre) George Ritzer informs that “Modern social theory sought a universal, a historical, rational foundation for its analysis and critique of society… (Whereas, I assume)…“Postmodern thinking rejects this ‘foundationalism’ and tends to be relativistic, irrational, and nihilistic.” (Ritzer, 2000: 604).
Gross' major claim is that citizenship is the basic institution that is necessary for the construction of a democratic multiethnic state. Citizenship enacted is an articulation of the state and the entire political culture. The term “Citizen” has many definitions and for him it is the “sense of democratic citizenship”- which “extends human, political and civil rights to all inhabitants, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or culture. In a civic state, which is based upon the concept of such citizenship, even foreigners are protected by the rule of law.” (Gross, 1999: xi) He cautions however that as the public domain expands, the modern democratic state needs to maintain a balance between individual and collective spheres. Central to democracy in a multiethnic state is the direct association of individuals, not groups or corporations, to the state. In such a society citizens also carry at least two identities- universal and particular- universal is the citizen, in the multicultural case the particular is most often the ethnic. Cultural Pluralism recognizes the positive value of ethnic and other diversity for democratic societies but only in tandem with overarching common values that connect the disparate groups. In this context the current dynamics of large-scale immigration and ethnic change in post-industrial Europe, as well as calls by historical micro-ethnics for political recognition, if not autonomy, are noted. I also must playfully insert here a contrast in Arjun Appadurai’s “post-national” solution to the same problem. (Appadurai, 1997) “The challenge for this emergent order will be whether such heterogeneity is consistent with some minimal conventions of norm and value, which do not require a strict adherence to the liberal social contract of the West. “ (Gross, 1999:23)
In many places in the world today ethnic tensions, in tandem with economic, political and cultural competition, have exploded in violence. In many other places the fuses have been lit. It would be foolish to rely on the effusive pledges of “never again” which followed the experience of genocide by allegedly the most “civilized” and “enlightened” nations of their time. What are needed are national, perhaps even international, institutions, laws, and commitment. Some states, it is argued by Gross, have a “better” type of citizenship, one that can be seen as an indicator of human rights and freedom. Furthermore, because of globalization, nations are increasingly interdependent and international borders more irrelevant. Therefore democratic citizenship is even more problematic and ways to promote it need to be carefully addressed. His search for answers to contemporary problems turns to a source in the past from which he roughly sketches the history of a powerful idea.
The idea of citizenship to Greece and the practice of citizenship can be traced to Rome. The Roman was the first universal empire and citizenship was a major devise in its successful development. The possibility of a multiethnic state itself proceeded through roughly four stages of development of the idea and practice of democratic citizenship: Athenian, Roman, Medieval Urban, the Enlightenment, and finally Modern Democratic States. Most of Gross' attention is given to modern historical and political developments in France, Germany, and Great Britain, with the United States of America as the ultimate inheritor of a precious European legacy.
There are some basic principles of social organization-common descent and neighborhood (territorial proximity). In early societies they are fused together. For him, these social bonds are “natural,” exclusionary, and the roots for the formation of mature political states. There are of course different methods for the consolidation of states and which lead to radically different kinds of societies. Multiethnic states have existed for millennia. For example, in the past multi-ethnic states, such as those described by Gross as “Asian despotic” ones, were held together by coercion. In multiethnic states based on a Theory of Conquest, coercive bonds were attached to conquered lower status ethnic groups. In addition to violence and the threat of violence, discrimination was generally employed as a governing technique. There are other historical routes to statehood; as in eastern Mediterranean city states where the growth of population led to the merging of expanded neighboring villages. For some of these conurbations, maritime trading increased ethnic diversity. Out of necessity there gradually became a separation of common descent from requirements for political membership and identity. Ethnic identity was replaced by neighborhood.
Noting many limitations, Gross gives Athens in the sixth century BC as the earliest example, albeit temporary, of a political association of individuals, dwelling in neighboring administrative units -- deme-- and not an association of clans and tribes. It was Rome, however, that reinvented and adopted citizenship as a major policy and instrument for constructing a multiethnic state on a universal scale. In addition to the territorial principle there were a variety of inclusive rather than exclusive categories of common bond. They operated together as a civic principle of membership in the same state. Diverse groups were able to share a common Roman identity, but the integrated empire of course was neither benign nor humane. By the 3rd century AD citizenship had been extended to all free inhabitants of the empire not withstanding religion or origin. Ethnicity was separated from the state, all subjects were granted the same rights and an historical milestone as a technique for building multi-ethnic state was reached.
At the end of the Roman Empire in the west, the idea and practice of citizenship continued in Italian cities, and with the diffusion of urbanization, spread over the continent. During the medieval period it survived exclusively as an urban institution in European countries where it was also enriched by native institutions, laws and customs. Later, the idea of the “Citizen” was associated with Rationalism and the 18th Century Enlightenment, and thusly became intrinsic to western political thought. The French Revolution elevated citizenship to a key symbol of the Republic. Citizenship marked an historical revolutionary shift, from the “collective” mediaeval system of corporations and estates to the individual or person. Throughout his work Gross refers to the fundamental theory of Social Contract as one of many ideas that were “false but convincing” and yet ironically contributed to the rise of more humane and benevolent states and democratic institutions. “From the myth and the poetry of natural law grew the belief that since all men are born equal, no one is above the law. In our century, democratic citizenship became one of the safeguards against the omnipotence of the government and state.” (Gross, 1999:71-72) Because people believed that somewhere in the mythic, misty past governments that relied on the consent on those whom they governed actually existed they demanded this “inalienable” right for themselves.
As a nation of immigrants, America was ethnically diverse from the very beginning and therefore citizenship was destined to be all-inclusive. The country’s Founders were keenly aware of their English forebear’s struggles with nobility, and the conflicts of parliaments. Accordingly, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, most often referred to as The Bill of Rights, was elevated to a Supreme Law. As extended by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution it was gradually applied to previously excluded racial groups such as Africans, Asians, and Native Americans. For Gross, America is not the only multiethnic democracy but to him it continues to be unique in its favorable comparison to Rome. This is so because of what he views as its unusual ethnic, religious, and racial variety as well as its relative success in tying the country together by means of a civic principle whose common denominator is citizenship.
Gross created a dichotomy of contemporary multiethnic states- Nationalistic States which privilege a single exclusive identity based upon a lore of common origin, and; Civic-Tolerant States which are rooted in the territorial principle of neighborhood which, incidentally, secures equal rights for all. It is assumed that in the latter, a person’s ethnic identity will not lead to impediments or deprivation of rights. There is a functional benefit for the state that treats its citizens equally in a smoother operation of government. In any case, ethnic group membership should not be a basis for political representation as it created the opportunity for abuse. Unfortunately, as my own research shows, ethnicity continues as a central, divisive, and detrimental, factor in American urban politics. (Krase, 1991) He paid special attention to two major patterns for citizenship in European countries represented by France and Germany. Germany, he notes, continues to employ the principle of common, consanguineal, descent but gives basic human rights to all legally admitted immigrants. In France the idea of citizenship is more “inclusive” (I would rather say less sanguine.) The principle of “liberty” there is a territorial and political, not an ethnic or racial one. The idea of Citizenship is associated with a unitary French state and its community of culture.
On the one hand, Gross believes that over the last half century there have been many changes toward greater ethnic, racial, and religious tolerance, and openness in contemporary European states. On the other, he sees in the United States the rise of some forces in opposition to the operant American myth of racial and religious tolerance. In both venues he notes the danger of intolerance which can easily be enhanced by small, armed groups that, in turn, can terrorize any nation. It is impossible to argue that Europe is not more ethnically tolerant in the year 2000 than it was in 1950 when it was still smoldering in the ruins of its self-immolation. Or, that America is less cohesive today than when it was horrified by the sight of what it itself could have become. My own reading of both the European and American scenes in regard to inter-group relations is more indistinct, with indications of strong opposing currents in both places. Incidents of racial and religious violence are just as likely among the disaffected male youths of eastern Germany as they are among the disaffected male youths of the eastern US.
Gross recognized that official, public policies do not mean that everyone in a society thinks the same way. He is keenly aware that changing social attitudes, norms, and values in the direction of tolerance is a slow, even reversible, process. For example, in the process of creating a common culture the level of cultural difference between groups is very important. He notes in passing that immigrant groups must also be willing to adjust to the occasionally “better” values of the host society. Every civic nation needs a critical mass of tolerant and educated voters in order to make the system work efficiently. If effective citizenship is a requisite for a democratic multiethnic state, then we have miles to go before we rest. And to be frank, we may never be without intolerance, but, almost as though whistling past a cemetery, Feliks Gross offers us that “The advance toward a more humane and more benign humanity has begun. Effective citizenship in a multiethnic state is a major expression of this trend, a signpost on this road.” (Gross, 1999:134)
Others have taken positions similar to those of Gross. As described most recently by Kristine Crane, "One of the most evident manifestations of the age of globalisation and migration is the multiplication of identities, embodied by the representation of many groups in the political space of cities. In this context, certain political concepts such as toleration are being re-defined. The centrality of toleration in contemporary political and social life is affirmed by political theorist Michael Walzer, who writes 'Toleration makes difference possible; difference makes toleration necessary.' (Walzer, 1997:12) In other words, a tolerant political climate allows for the existence of differences. At the same time, these differences make toleration a viable political concept. Walzer examines toleration in modern society as it has existed within two paradoxical processes that confer identity. The first of these processes invokes the recognition of national identity that is defined by citizenship and individual rights, and prevails over citizens’ other cultural identities. This would be the case of U.S. citizens identifying themselves primarily according to their citizenship, with all other identities, such as Jewishness or Italian origins, as secondary." (Crane, 2003:1) My own work concerns how to make "toleration" possible.
Ralf Dahrendorf offers a different kind of insight into the complex formula for maintaining peaceful coexistence between conflicting and competing groups who share a common citizenship:
"The notion that groups should have equal rights but remain separate was once the ultimate concession of traditionalists in the old segregated American South. A form of apartheid without oppression was as far as they were prepared to go.
Liberal forces, however, pushed for a different solution. They wanted a society in which races and ethnic groups and religious denominations mixed freely. When they lived apart in their own "ghettos", their children were taken by bus to schools of the other groups so that what is nowadays called multi-culturalism could be practised. Ultimately the liberal dream of a fully developed citizenship that a common floor of rights -- including a guaranteed economic status -- will enable different people to live together in harmony. But today we know that this is only a dream.
It may appear to become real where people of different social classes live together, but this is so because the lines of class themselves have become blurred … However where differences cannot be easily blurred - those of religion, ethnic and cultural origin, colour- common citizenship has not achieve the unity of diversity so many have dreamed about.
In fact wherever different groups have had to share space, they have either fought each other or drawn a line to stay separate. Sometimes these lines are highly visible. They are in fact borders, as they are drawn most dramatically between the parts of what used to be called Yugoslavia…
Elsewhere, even in the most civilised countries, the same process may not be as visible but equally prevalent. The Turks of Berlin, the Bangladeshis of Bradford, the North Africans of the suburbs of Paris have not blended into the surrounding societies. In fact the second generation cultivates its differences from the mainstream culture more aggressively than the original immigrants.
Why do equal citizenship rights not achieve their purpose? In many cases, people may not have tried hard enough. After all, as far as Jews are concerned, Israel has done a remarkable job of integrating diversity. The United States may be less of a melting pot today than it was a century ago, but even so it sets a good example.
Perhaps it is the lack of integrative strength in other societies, which makes people feel that the only place they really belong is among their own people. Globalization may have something to do with it, as well as the disintegration that accompany modernization.
For those who have not abandoned hope for the eventual victory of enlightened values but who nonetheless see things as they are in the real world, a version of "separate but equal" may provide at least an interim answer. So far as equality is concerned, the guarantee of full citizenship rights for all represents a major task. Much remains to be done to achieve it.
So far as separateness is concerned, it should not be explicitly promoted unless a fence seems to be the only hope of peace. It should, however, be allowed, while at the same time common spaces should be available and safe for all. London comes to mind when thinking of an example of relative success in the face of extraordinary diversity. In this great metropolis, many people share the pleasures as well as the miseries of public spaces. Their lives are intertwined yet diverse." ((Dahrendorf, 2002:22-23)
Richard Sennett adds a rather depressing evaluation of the results of "managing" difference in the most multicultural of cities, my own New York City: "What is characteristic of our city building is to wall off the differences between people, assuming that these differences are more likely to be mutually threatening than mutually stimulating. What we make in the urban realm are therefore bland, neutralizing spaces which remove the threat of social contact: street walls faced in sheets of plate glass, highways that cut off poor neighborhoods from the rest of the city, dormitory housing developments." (Sennett, 1990, xii) In his work he shows what can be learned from the multitude of historical urban experiences to offer an alternative, positive vision for contemporary, globalized, urban life which would allow for the appreciation of diverse social, and especially visual, urban experience. In many related, virtually parallel, veins is the work of Lyn Lofland that has dealt with the evolution of the contemporary metropolis as a social system whose central value is managing social, cultural, and economic heterogeneity. (Lofland, 1985) She also speaks to the danger that fear of the other can effectively create safe but dehumanized urban life and culture in what she terms the Public Realm. (Lofland, 1998)
The delicate balancing which is necessary for managing relations between residents in "ghettos without walls" was evinced by the murder in multicultural Brooklyn, New York of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Orthodox Jew who was accosted by a mob of African Americans during the Crown Heights Riot in the summer of 1991. As an expert on inter-group relations and someone who had written and researched extensively on Brooklyn my work was cited in at least one of the many post-incident analyses by government agencies. Although not sufficiently highlighted in these reports, my view was that the murder and the riots reflected long simmering tensions. After experiencing decades of white flight less than ten percent of the neighborhoods population at the time of the riot was white, and almost all of these were Orthodox Jews. Uneasy neighbors for years, Blacks felt that the Hassidic Jewish community received preferential treatment, such as extra police protection, from government agencies. .
As a member of a special committee created by the Community District, I offered the following guidelines for the actions for the district's manager and board:
All of the Community Districts in New York City are unique and special, but in different ways. The special and unique aspects of District Nine are crucial for the future of inter-group relations in New York City, and other urban centers. CPD 9 has experienced all the classic urban transitions and transformations; more and less successfully.
"Multiculturalism" is an ideology that argues that it possible for a society to be unified despite the cultural differences of its constituent groups. It is also maintains that the greater society should make it possible for these distinct groups to express their cultural uniqueness in safety and dignity. History has shown however that such naturally occurring possibilities are indeed rare; they must be carefully created and scrupulously maintained.
It is proposed that the entire 197a Plan for Community District Nine be sensitive to the issues of multiculturalism from inception to execution. Specifically in the area of physical environment that the Plan be structured in such a way as to Create and Maintain Spaces which make it possible for different cultural groups to live together in community. For example, the Plan must provide for public and private spaces into which individuals can retreat in order to express and share their uniqueness among themselves, and other places in which they are invited to come together to share their special values with others, and also to jointly express their common needs and goals.
The Plan must also create and maintain opportunities for positive interaction and cooperation in all aspects of local community life: sports, schools, parks, recreation, community meetings, public events, employment, housing, industrial environment, open space, commercial strips, transportation, and community facilities. To promote orderly growth and future development of Community District 9 "Multiculturalism" must be a consideration for each Issue, Goal, Strategy, and Action. (Krase, 1996)
We turn now to a consideration of the Visual Presentation of Community or "What does community look like?" I must note at the outset that I do not hold a naïve icon of community such as critiqued by Deyan Sudjic's: "The most cherished of contemporary myths is the recurring dream of community. Half rose-tinted Frank Capra, half Passport to Pimlico, it's a fantasy that celebrates the corner shop, borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbours, and all those other unimpeachable suburban virtues that range from motherhood to apple pie." (Sujic, 1992:304) I had concluded twenty years prior that although that which most people call "communities" are commonsensical treated as real entities with physical substance and attributes they might be better treated as one or another version of a possible social reality. In this paper I would like to discuss one particular version of the ideal American community and the problems which some groups might have in dramaturgically producing it in front of skeptical audiences. It is suggested that this problem of producing community by minority groups in the United States is equally relevant in other ethnic, national, and political state settings. It must be emphasized that when groups are unable to successfully perform community they are effectively stigmatized, and can suffer substantial social, political, and economic penalties for their apparently moral failure. (Krase, 1977, 1978)
What emerged from my pioneering work The Presentation of Community in Urban Society is a definition of community not as a real entity with physical substance and attributes but as a possible social reality that can be confirmed through observation and interpretation of symbolic cues. The end product of my ethnography was a collection and analysis of accounts of doing community, and perceiving community. These accounts were analyzed in reference to conceptual categories that developed in accomplishing this particular research project. The concept of community was therefore transformed from an empirical object to a phenomenological possibility. It became a social potential that is confirmable and producible through various methods. Cognitive and physical structures were of interest only in so far as they affect the methods of realization (Krase, 1973:48-49)
The Emergent Conceptual Categories of Doing Neighborhood Community were:
1. The conditions of togetherness; consensus, solidarity, and agreement.
2. Physical and social boundaries. Locating community.
3. The quality of social relationships; friendliness, warmth, helping, looking out for one another. Vigilance.
4. The quality of size. On being small. Perception of size.
5. Oppression and vulnerability. The necessity of community oppression. The advantage of vulnerability. "They" and "We."
6. Uniqueness of locale. Physical culture. Social history. Being special.
7. The desire to be recognized. Community and neighborhood as a moral problem. Stigma.
8. The impact of personal community models, as a guide for present, and future activities, and as a source of judgement.
9. The importance of physical appearances. On being clean, and beautiful. Showing class, thorough visual and sensual clues.
10. The problem of organizational skills. The perceived need for organization. On organizational appearance, and being too organized.
For the purposes of this paper, "The Importance of Physical Appearance" is of course, most salient.
"Another important aspect of community is the physical appearances that are imbued with moral or normative qualities. Some of the simplistic, although working, assumptions can be stated as relationships such as: physical order-moral order; cleanliness-godliness; and good- taste-good upbringing. It is not my purpose here to criticize such notions, as they are beyond objective critique when they are part of a common-sense casual nexus of community accounts and interpretations. They are apparently social givens that are accepted by common-sense members as valid and therefore real in their subjective experience. It appears that community members and activists are inordinately concerned with being clean and beautiful. The connection of the ideal version of the American community with middle class virtue and accessories is shown in the display of class through visual and other sensual clues. Community is a moral aesthetic as well as an ethic. The value of community is assumed to be reflected in local appearances. A tour of the neighborhood is best performed on a warm sunny day. (Krase, 1973:368)
Perhaps because of the difficulty of manipulating social relations and their effects, to produce a convincing aura of community, local people involve themselves in individual and group efforts at creating an appearance of community through such things as planting trees, putting up gas lamps, planting flowers and other beautification activities. The importance of the physical appearance of an area cannot be underestimated. It is the first clue that a person had to the social and economic make up of the neighborhood. Clean and wholesome vistas of neighborhood streets give the appearance of happy middle-class community. Keeping up appearances becomes, in turn, a moral obligation on the part of individuals and groups to help keep up the front. Even without close and intimate contact with neighbors the normative aspects of neighborhood appearance are conveyed to violators." What does the "good" community look like? What does community look like as a performance? Who should be included in or excluded from the picture?
I am not the first or only person to notice the importance of the visual in community valuations. Sebastian de Grazia, discussing "Adaptations to Acute Anomie" offers the following:
"Perhaps less known are the efforts made by the Nazis to re-create the atmosphere of Gemeinschaft, that part of their work which looks to a homier past. In 1938 an English architectural expert toured Germany, and his remarks on buildings styles and art are interesting because they deal rather objectively with the relatively unfamiliar works of the Nazis. Having only an indirect political bearing, these deeds of theirs may smack less of duplicity."(de Grazia, 1948: 179-80)
He then quotes John Gloag: 'We don't want experiments in structure or materials,' we were informed. The housing officials know exactly what accommodations a family needs; they prefer to sue traditional materials and building methods; they want to create a comfortable setting for traditional family life. (no experiments are wanted in that direction either…)
There can be no compromise between the experimental outlook of the modernist and the determinism of National Socialism to establish the family with all of its sacred traditional accompaniments in fecundity and perpetuity….
German housing officials put first on the list: the people hate a flat roof. I was assured that people can't and won't think of a flat-roofed house as a home. I was too familiar with the echoes of this sentiment in our own country to dispute the assertion. Experiments have been made with various materials, but the most satisfactory structure has been produced by timber farming, with brick filling; similar to the half timbered houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These new farm-houses have a thatched roof; generous windows; walls thick enough to keep the house warm in the biting, raging winds that harry the plains; and an air of welcome and comfort. They are not copies of old houses --- they exemplify the use of the traditional method of building. They blend agreeably with existing buildings, and they are going to last and grow old gracefully.
The flight from concrete is interesting, for it is political in character; it is a flight from exciting and revolutionary shapes that might recall memories of modernism; it is an expression of reverence for tradition and abhorrence of any form of life that threatens the old, known and often inconvenient ways of mankind.
And everywhere -- around Berlin, near big industrial cities, outside Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt and cologne-- you see, as a reflection of these homely ideas, the little warm-roofed dwelling which are stopping the landflucht, spreading contentment and checking the growth of unconventional ideas." (Gloag, 1939: 95, 56, 58-59, 61-62.)
Clearly racialist ideologies make the recognition of community even more problematic. It is therefore impossible to understand the power of the visible and visual in American multicultural community life without reference to the most powerful statement of this relationship by Ralph Ellison:
"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids-and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me.
Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a biochemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves.
Then too, you're constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren't simply a phantom in other people's minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It's when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you're a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it's seldom successful." (Ellison: 1952:1)
It is clear from all these treatments of the problem of seeing community that we need to find a way of teaching about community for multicultural society; in essence a way to see, understand, and perhaps even appreciate diversity. Therefore, we turn now to a consideration of the methods that I employ in training my students to recognize community in their own multicultural micro- and macro-societies. Beyond the great public spaces and edifices of America’s metropolitan areas lies a vast domain of home environments where ordinary people have created distinct landscapes and places. The visible patterns in these ethnic neighborhoods are richly varied in the ways space is used socially as well as physically constructed. These vernacular urban landscapes are created and maintained by migrants who have carried their designs for living from their places of origin and adapted them to the resources and opportunities presented to them in their new locales.
Much of what I do today as a Spatial Semiotician and Visual Sociologist, documenting signs of class and ethnicity in urban neighborhoods, is an intellectual version of a childhood game, that despite my advancing age (sixty at last count), I can vividly remember playing. The game was usually played on days when the weather made it impossible to go outside and the rules were simple. After we had left the room one of my playmates placed an object in “plain sight” somewhere in the room. Then, we would come back in and look for it. It always amazed me how much trouble we had finding something that was literally staring us in the face.
I hope to show in this section how one might integrate teaching with more traditional modes of observation and explanation, particularly as I train my students in the “practice of space,” or the relations between spatial forms and social practices in terms of how either or both change in response to the constraints of space and place. Here our attention will be directed toward how the landscape of some of Brooklyn, New York’s best and least known White Ethnic, Latino, Asian, and Black neighborhoods are being transformed by the influx of new immigrants.
In order to adequately explain how I teach people to look at ethnic landscapes it is also necessary to broadly consider how Vernacular Landscapes, Visual Sociology, and Spatial Semiotics help us to appreciate the processes of immigration and adjustment. This would make it possible to understand the spatial arrangements in neighborhoods, such as the different ways sidewalks or playgrounds are used, where one group has replaced another, particularly where their respective cultures are significantly different from one another. These, more academic, discussions as well as a few representative photographs are placed at the end of the essay.
During the 20th Century Brooklyn has averaged well over two million residents. At the turn of the 21st there were 2,465,326 official Brooklynites. Most dramatic and relevant here is the changes in the racial composition of the population during the second half of the century, especially the most recent two decades. For example, since 1940, the non Hispanic Black population in Brooklyn has grown from slightly over one-hundred-thousand to more than eight hundred thousand per¬sons; or from four percent of the borough's total population to not quite thirty five percent. In broader racial terms, Brooklyn has gone from having a 96% white non Hispanic majority to having a 34.7% white non Hispanic minority.
Along with these basic demographic changes have been sig¬nificant shifts in the national origins of newcomers, especially in the last two recent decades. Often referred to as Post-1965 Immigration because of the major changes made in United States immigration laws, these immigration trends have created an almost bewildering social and cultural milieu. Brooklyn has always been a virtual and actual Roman Fountain of immi¬gration. The foreign born proportion of the population has aver¬aged 30% for most of the 20th Century.
Immigration and racial change is not uniform across the borough. In some sections of Brooklyn more than half of the population is foreign born. Segregation by ethnic, racial, and/or religious groupings is common. For example, some of Brooklyn neigh¬borhoods are all white. Others are all black. Brooklyn's black population is large enough for it to be further segregated by nativity. In the borough one can find a variety of black com¬munities such as Haitian and Jamaican (Afro Caribbean) as well as Afro American neighborhoods. Similarly, among the growing number of predominately Latino neighborhoods are those, for example, which are distinctly Puerto Rican and Dominican, as opposed to Mexican and Central American. While not nearly as large as either the Black or Latino population, East and South Asians have become the most rapidly growing immigrant groups in the borough.
Brooklyn Racial Composition 1980, 1990, 2000
1980 1990 2000
Total Population 2,230,936 100.0 2,300,664 100.0 2,465,326 100.0
Non Hispanic White 1,095,946 49.1 923,229 40.1 854,532 34.7
Non Hispanic Black 688,405 30.9 797,802 34.7 848,583 34.4
Hispanic 393,103 17.6 462,411 20.1 487,878 19.8
Asian 44,911 2.0 106,022 4.6 185,094 7.5
Amerind 3,031 0.1 5,416 0.2 4,494 0.2
Other 5,540 0.2 5,784 0.3 84,745 3.4
Learning to See Through The Eye of the Beholder
While lecturing on “Multiculturalism in American Urban Life” in the American Studies Center at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, since my Polish was much worse than my students’ English, they seemed to appreciate my slide presentations of the many different (including Polish) ethnic neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I was in Poland to conduct photographic research on the visual similarities between Polish and Polish-American neighborhoods. Therefore, I asked the students if they would take me on a tour of different neighborhoods in Krakow to show me what they thought symbolized “Polishness.” One trip was to Nowa Huta, a planned industrial suburb of 200,000 built in the 1950s, which has long been a hated symbol to Poles of Russian Communist repression. Described in The Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit: Poland as a “communist dream” that “didn’t materialize,” a “grey concrete desert,”and a monotonous monument to Stalinist architectural (Dydynski, 1993: 196)
In Nowa Huta my students led me to many “landmarks” which reflected what they felt was valiant Polish opposition to oppression such as a tank which had been commandeered by protesters during an anti-government demonstration. Oddly, the most memorable “sight” during this visit was an empty square in the middle of the planned apartment block community where a statue of Lenin used to be. They took me to see something that, at least physically, was no longer there!
A few years later I escorted several visiting scholars from Poland, and from Italy on tours of two of Brooklyn’s most well known ethnic neighborhoods- “Polish” Greenpoint, and “Italian” Bensonhurst. To the naked American eye the two different communities were both stereotypically “ethnic.” They both were bustling immigrant enclaves where the store signs and the languages spoken on the street were foreign. It is important to emphasize that Brooklyn's Italian and Polish neighborhoods are actually more "foreign" today than they were twenty years ago. Immigrants are a much larger proportion of the local populations now as most Italian Americans have moved, and an even greater segment of assimilated Polish Americans left for the more distant suburbs.
By the 1960s, commercial signs in the Polish language had almost disappeared in Greenpoint. Only a few local enterprises were still adorned with semiotics of the Poland such as red and white signs, and crowned Polish eagles. Even fewer Polish place names on local stores, such as “Zakopane,” had survived the residential transitions. At the beginning of the new Millenium young immigrant Poles have filled the spaces vacated by their assimilated co-nationalists and share the neighborhoods with only small remnants of the older Polonia. Interestingly, many of the newer Polish businesses are not marked by the stereotypical national motifs of previous generations. But, Greenpoint is now saturated with signs in Polish announcing everything from food to professional services, multi-purpose Agencja, and other, work-related signs. The otherwise ordinary looking street corner near St. Stanislaus Kosta Roman Catholic Church is now the intersection of Lech Welesa, Solidarity Square and Pope John Paul II Street which commemorates their visits, perhaps even their pilgrimages, to Polish Greenpoint.
Bensonhurst has benefited by ebbs and flows of Italian, especially Sicilian, immigrants since World War Two, many of whom have homes in both Italy and the United States. In contrast to Greenpoint, the Italian shopping street, 18th Avenue that was renamed in 1992 as “Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard,” attracts many non-Italians. Polish shopping areas point more inward than do Italian ones. This has as much to do with immigrant and ethnic attitudes as to perceptions by outsiders. In American cities, Italian neighborhoods, festooned with red, white, and green signs and flags, are places where people go to shop and especially to eat. Italian restaurants are a virtual ethnic industry; what I have called in other places “Ethnic Theme Parks” or “Disneylands.” (Krase, 1997) In contrast, in Brooklyn's Polonia one finds few "fancy" restaurants and even fewer eateries, which seek to attract outsiders. Of course Bensonhurst is not totally open to outsiders; its ethnic insularity is reflected in the large number of local Caffes, town and regional social clubs, and Italian record stores which are generally off limits for non-Italian-speaking visitors.
As obviously “authentic” expressions of national cultures as these areas might appear to most native-born Americans, all of my Polish and Italian guests announced that they saw nothing which reminded them of either Poland or Italy in Greenpoint or Bensonhurst. The ethnic, or national, qualities of these spaces were virtually invisible to them.
A decade ago, a different kind of invisibility concerned the thousands of Chinese immigrants to Brooklyn. My friend John Kuo Wei Tchen, who now directs the Asian and Pacific American Studies Program and Institute at New York University, asked me whether I was aware that a large Chinatown was growing in Sunset Park. As an alleged “expert” on Brooklyn’s ethnic communities, I was embarrassed to admit that, as to a distinctly Asian enclave in Brooklyn, I was quite in the dark.
My ignorance, although inexcusable, was at least understandable. For the casual observer the shopping strip defines the ethnic character of a neighborhood and we therefore read ethnic enclaves by the appearance of their commercial streets. (Krase, 2003) Most immigrants prefer having groceries, bakeries, res¬taurants, and other shops nearby, as opposed to the American ur¬ban planning ideal of functionally segregated residential com¬munities, with commercial centers at some distance away to serve them. Ethnic enclaves are also more or less apparent to the varying degrees to which their visual symbols clash with those of Anglo-American urban culture. The vernacular landscapes of Chinese and American urban neighborhoods are as different as their respective languages but Sunset Park’s Chinese immigrants were working and shopping elsewhere. They commuted daily by a convenient subway connection to Manhattan’s world-famous Chinatown. Since they spend much of their waking hours elsewhere, Sunset Park’s streets showed little sign of their considerable residential presence. Only at morning and evening rush hours did the neighborhood subway stations contradict the White Ethnic reputation of the area.
Steven A. Camarota and Mark Krikorian noted another aspect of ethnic impressions based on commercial streets in their debunking of the “myth” of greater than average immigrant entrepreneurial activity: “Walk through an immigrant neighborhood in any American city and you’ll get an impression of intense entrepreneurial activity. Street vendors sell everything from produce to pajamas, while small shops and restaurants advertise in the community’s native language. Stories of immigrant businesses revitalizing neighborhood have become a staple of news coverage on immigration.” (Camarota and Krikorian, 2000)
For decades I have been teaching a graduate level Sociology of the Urban Community course in a Master’s Degree in Education program for New York City Teachers. My goal is not only to help them learn about Sociology, but also how to see the city in which they live and work. In turn I hope that they will transfer those skills to their own pupils. As my students teach at levels from Pre-Kindergarten to High School seniors I have tried to keep my learning exercises as jargon-free as possible. I require my students to make field trips to observe one “Modern” and one “Traditional” urban community. As a whole, the class (anywhere from 15-30 students) travels to visit the World Financial Center and adjacent residential development, Battery Park City in Manhattan, as an example of a modern community. They are usually given the option to choose a traditional venue on their own.
Before we take the first trip, however there is a great deal of visual preparation. Naturally, the students read and discuss in class how others have described and theorized about urban communities, but being visually prepared requires different skills and sensitivities. In preparation for the field trips I give them a short version of the myth of Orpheus which they read in anticipation of viewing the film Black Orpheus (1959) directed by Marcel Camus. On the next class period following the showing of the film I divide them into groups of four or five to engage in a “Collaborative Project” about how the director has lyrically contemporized the myth of Orpheus. The fact that the actors in the film are speaking Portuguese (English sub-titles) and the setting is the favelas and the downtown of Rio De Janeiro during Carnevale increases the importance of de-coding visual signs in order to understand the filmic analogies and metaphors.
For another in-class visual learning activity I ask my students how they think that “community” is expressed in the films that they have seen. As an assignment, I ask them to share with the other members of the class a one-minute clip from a commercial video of, in effect, what community looks like. As a result of this exercise we have been treated to scenes excerpted from films that range from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) to the Disney-animated Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Their term writing assignment is modest –a three to six page, purely descriptive paper of their ethnographic field research. I simply tell them that I all want I want them to do is write what it is that they saw during their mini-safaris through the urban wilderness. Even with what I think is sufficient training most still complain that they would be hard pressed to fill three pages with pure description of a one-hour excursion. The following essay is one of the better examples of what a trained eye and sensitive mind can discover in a familiar environment. The Brooklyn neighborhood in question here is often described by outsiders simply as a “Black” area because almost one-hundred percent of the population can trace their heritage to Africa. As my Afro-Caribbean-American student, Gwenyth Chase, makes clear, this neighborhood is not ethnically homogeneous.
Gwenyth Chase’s Field Trip Number 2.
“I live on Woodruff Avenue, one block from Flatbush Avenue. I walk the area everyday but I am usually in too much of a hurry to really notice the small details. Two weeks ago I needed to get my hair cut so I decided to use the time, as I walked to and from the barber, to conduct my observation.
I left home around 2:00 p.m. and walked east towards Flatbush Avenue. My block is primarily residential, but at the corner closest to Flatbush, there are some small stores. On the right there is a nail salon, a bodega, and a “$.99” store. Above these stores are apartments. On the sidewalk outside the stores there were groups of people sitting and playing board games ranging from chess and checkers to dominoes. Next to them in the driveway of an apartment building was a vendor selling silver jewelry. On the right corner there is a “religious” store and a restaurant that sells “Roti and West Indian Food.”
I turned left on Flatbush and continued walking north to Hawthorne Street where my barber’s shop is located. This stretch of Flatbush is mainly commercial with a variety of stores. However, the streets which intersect with the avenue are mainly residential with homes ranging from one to four families, and larger apartment buildings. As I walked on Flatbush I saw a variety of stores: a Jamaican bakery, a pizza store, West Indian fruit and vegetable markets, a store with a sign that says it sells Dominican produce, and stores to purchase phone cards as well as to make long distance phone calls.
The sidewalks were also very crowded. There were many people carrying large shopping bags. The traffic also reflected the busy atmosphere of this area. The streets were crowded with automobiles, city buses and the inevitable “dollar” vans. One thing that was constant was the sound of music. Wherever a group of people was gathered, loud music filled the air. It ran the gamut from rap and hip-hop to calypso and salsa.
My return trip took me south on Flatbush Avenue. Here as well there were more signs of a diverse neighborhood. There were more West Indian/Caribbean restaurants and bakeries, a Haitian craft store, a Haitian church, and a shoe repair store that is owned and operated by Russians. Inside one store was particularly interesting; on the right Asians were selling “fresh” fish and on the left Jamaicans (I was able to pick up the accent) selling “jerk” chicken. At the corner of Lenox Road and Flatbush there is a key Food supermarket. Next to it there is a municipal parking lot with a section allocated to vendors who formerly sold their goods on the sidewalk. As I walked through the market, there was still loud music. The stalls sell everything from clothing to toys and jewelry. Some of the more popular stalls are those that sell bandanas, key-chains, hats and bags with the flag or national colors of almost every Caribbean island. At Flatbush and Church Avenue I stood at the steps of the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church. Across the street on the right, there is a Citibank between a Guyanese bakery and a ‘Subway” restaurant. On the left there is a Chase Manhattan Bank next door to a Caribbean bakery. This is one of the busiest intersections of the area. There is a constant flow of pedestrians. They stop to chat wherever and whenever they see a friend, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are blocking the sidewalk. This is repeated as well with vehicular traffic in both directions. On Church along with the usual traffic there are many “dollar cabs” operating. The same applies to the traffic on Flatbush, except that the “dollar vans’ operate here instead. This intersection is usually very chaotic as both cabs and vans jockey for passengers. This was very much in evidence on this occasion.
On any day of the week, but particularly on the weekend a walk through this area tells exactly who lives here. Stores with names such as “Guyanese” Bakery, “Chinese,” “Spanish,” or “Jamaican” Restaurant, is an indication of who owns, or at the very least, operates these businesses. Even those stores or restaurants not specifically identified by national or ethnic names still carry an indication or their ethnic affiliation. “Island Image” Restaurant on Flatbush between Caton and Linden has the flag of Trinidad and Tobago on its awning. The signs on the pizza stores are red, green, and white. Visually there is much to tell about who lives and conducts business here. Even if the signs are not readily apparent there are also audio/verbal clues. Just by listening one can pick the different languages and accents.
The population of Flatbush is predominantly Caribbean (lumped together as West Indians). However with this group there is a fierce pride in national identities. Some people have flags on their cars as well as license plate stickers with the name of their respective country. I have a Barbados flag at my front door and I do not want to be referred to as a hyphenated American. There is not much in the way of ethnic vernacular architecture here; the residents live the housing which is available to them.
I have lived on the same block for over fifteen years. During that time there have been many changes that reflect some of the adjustments for the increasing number of Caribbean immigrants. For example Key Food now has an aisle for Caribbean products such as pepper sauce, jerk season, etc... Through the efforts of Councilwoman Una Clarke, the street vendors were allocated a specific location to sell their products. She was also responsible for the legalizing of the dollar vans that operate on Flatbush Avenue.
Earlier I mentioned the businesses that sell telephone cards and long distance services. There has been an increase in the number of these along Flatbush Avenue over the past five years. Many people rent a room in a one family house or in a single room Occupancy building where they may not have access to a telephone. The telephone cards and the long distance calling service provide a much-needed service, especially for those who want to contact their families overseas.
As I walked down the block on my way back home, I saw that the board players were still on the sidewalk. However they were joined by a “panman” playing the rhythmic sounds of the steel pan and a group of people were dancing as well.” (Chase, 1999)
Seminar on Ethnicity and Neighborhood: The Ethnic Mapping of Sunset Park
There are many ways of defining the boundaries of a neighborhood community. My own preference is for concrete geographical boundaries such as streets or rivers that act as edges which in turn surround landmarks or benchmarks and that provide closure. In urban research, demography reigns and it is convenient to utilize often-arbitrary boundaries that have been established for the collection of data for administrative or other purposes. Gwenyth Chase eloquently defined her neighborhood visually by simply walking around the block. For most urban sociologists neighborhoods are artificially constructed out of census tracts, or smaller census blocks. These may or may not conform to the symbolic and geographical definitions of local community residents.
For the ethnic mapping project in my seminars on “Ethnicity and Neighborhood” I try to select areas such as Community District 7 in which there is some articulation between the “official” boundaries of the local community and those which might be meaningful to the people who live in them. About thirty years ago New York City created Community Districts that are used for planning and coordination of city services such as sanitation. These “official” communities are very convenient for researchers because population, housing, education and other important data is reported in accordance with the boundaries. Community District 7 has some additional value for my interests because it conforms in most ways to the historical boundaries of the two large neighborhoods, Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, which share the area but are clearly separated by major landmarks. According to the New York City Planning Commission in 1999 District 7 “… located in the western section of Brooklyn, is a mixed residential, industrial and commercial area. The home of an ethnically and economically integrated population, the district is comprised of two communities: Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace…. Slightly over 50% of the population of the Community Board Seven is Hispanic. The indigenous Puerto Rican population is now augmented by a large number of Colombians, Mexicans, Dominicans and Ecuadorians. There remains a large European population of Polish, Italian, Irish, Finnish and Scandinavians and we are beginning to see small pockets of Arabic and immigrants from the former Soviet Union countries. The Chinese is fastest growing population in the board area.” (NYCDCP, 1999:115-136.)
I would argue that there are “visual dimensions” of almost every social process, and most easily imagined are those of immigrant enclaves. The process of immigrant adjustment, and eventually assimilation, is also reflected ecologically through the invasion and succession of residential neighborhoods. This is evidenced by changes in the vernacular landscapes of urban neighborhoods. Ordinary people do not “know” they are in an ethnic neighborhood because they read the most recent census data. To them it simply “looks like” one. By conducting an “Ethnic Mapping” of the extremely diverse and rapidly changing Sunset Park area students are able to see how culture/ethnicity reflects and shapes the urban form and the local community. They can witness, and perhaps even document, how the built environment changes, or is preserved, to reflect ethnic cultural identities. At the theoretical level, by mapping signs of ethnic culture they learn how ethnic landscapes carry on the social activities of space reproduction and representation by noting the interaction between local landscapes in other neighborhoods or the city at large.
I begin the in-class exercise by distributing among the students an enlarged detailed street map of the neighborhood. It is taken from the map of Community District 7, constructed by the New York City Department of City Planning. Conveniently, Sunset Park is a perfect grid of rectangular street blocks; streets running from east to west, and avenues running from north to south. The neighborhood is then divided into sections, the individual blocks are numbered consecutively, and each student is assigned two of their own blocks to survey. They are also given crude linear outlines of the blocks, which are drawn on graph paper, on which they indicate street names. Earlier in the semester their common sense understanding of how the ethnic character of a neighborhood can be read was enhanced through assigned readings, class notes, and a slide lecture about the photographic research I have conducted on ethnic neighborhoods. Finally, students are instructed how to take note of “visible indicators of ethnicity” and record their observations on their block maps. The graph paper allows them to estimate relative distances for locating observations.
Before they go out on their own, I take them on a short tour of the main commercial street (Eighth Avenue) and a few residential side streets of Sunset Park to train their eyes to notice differences in the detail of the vernacular landscape. After about an hour together, I send them out on their own with pencils, clip boards, and cameras in hand. I recommend that, when they are in the field, students should work in pairs.
On the next class session following the field research we gather around the large seminar table and create a map of Sunset Park by placing, in correct geographical orientation, the 8 1/2 by 11 graph paper sheets upon which their observations were recorded. In this way, for example, they are able to see patterns of ethnic concentration as well as change. The most interesting observations that the students make are those that differ from the "official" portrait provided by the census data. I remind them that since the last census was in 1990, by 1999 the community has been changing for almost ten years.
What did the Students See and Record?
My seminar students surveyed a segment of the neighborhood that was bisected by the main commercial strip- Eight Avenue. They discovered that at the southern end (60th Street) it was a virtual Chinatown. As they walked northward toward 50th, the avenue looked less Chinese and more Latino. The easiest ethnic keys to read were of course the commercial signage, but the dress, language, and physical features of the people on the streets also seemed to correlate with the appearance of the storefront displays and the products and services offered. In the south, nearest to the subway station, the good luck colors of China, and Chinese language characters were ubiquitous. Of special note was the red and gold lettered sign of the Buddhist Zenjin Association USA. But along the avenue there was also a smattering of other Asian languages, such as Indonesian-Malaysian, Arabic, Pakistani-Bengali, and Korean.
At the corner of 60th Street they also found the Birkal “Turkish” market, next door to a Moslem clothing shop, the American Muslim Association, and above which was a mosque. Much of the food and produce offered, including the “Halal” meats, in the Birkal market were clearly designed to appeal to non-Chinese Asians, Europeans, and Middle-Easterners. Around the corner and down the block from the market, my students observed a small group of women in Islamic dress (long robes and shadoors) watching over young children playing an enclosed space. It should be noted that here in Sunset Park similarly dressed Moslem women are very “noticeable” while not far away in a large Bangladeshi-Pakistan enclave they visually blend into the landscape. Most of the other residents of this particular block appeared to be Chinese. In front on one house was displayed a sidewalk shrine of Saint Anthony and students assumedly it was lived in by Italians. At a few other places on the same street my students noted similar religious shrines, as well as other indicators of prior occupation by Mediterranean ethnic groups such as fig trees, and grapevines.
Although the main ethnic continuum which runs north south through the neighborhood is Asian-Latino there are some other interesting visual stops along the way. A few decades ago this part of Sunset Park was an old Scandinavian (Norwegian) neighborhood and was referred to by locals as Lapskaus Boulevard. Lapskaus is a Norwegian beef stew. Today one has to search very heard to find signs of their eighty-year long dominance. One ethnic fossil is a small variety store on Eight Avenue that has was a Lute Fisk sign in the window. I had to explain to my students that lute fisk is a dish, served especially during the Christmas holidays, which is made from salted dried cod. Other signs of this senior ethnic group are the Protestant (Lutheran) churches in the neighborhood that, now in Chinese characters or en Espanol, announce religious and other services. In a few instances, students also found Scandinavian names such as “Larsen” displayed in the front of neatly landscaped single-family houses on the side streets.
Mid-way between the Chinese and Latino concentrations along Eight Avenue my students were surprised to discover another mosque, this one decorated in green and white (colors of Islam), and several stores, with hand written signs in Arabic and advertising Halal meat. They were even more puzzled however by the sudden appearance at this point of a Polski Delikatessi decorated in red and white, and two stores; Odziesz na Waga which sells used clothing, and a Frysjer, or hairdresser. I explained that these Polish stores provided services to the numerous household workers employed by the Orthodox Jewish families who live a few blocks away in Borough Park. Although, compared to Latinos and Asians, there is not a large number of Poles residing in the area, one of the local Roman Catholic churches in the area offers masses in Polish. As to the explanation for the Moslem, assumedly Middle Eastern, presence I can only surmise that they, like the Poles, have simply found a niche in a residential area contested by much larger, and continuously growing, Chinese, Latino and Orthodox Jewish enclaves.
It must be noted here that a major change in the appearance of the northeastern section of Sunset Park has been due to the expansion of the Orthodox Jewish population that has radiated outward from its demographic and commercial center on 13th Avenue in Borough Park. As with the Chinese population, subway lines have played a major role in Borough Park developing “From Suburb to Shetl” as my colleague Egon Mayer has written (1979). Just as Sunset Park was an extension of Manhattan’s Chinatown, Borough Park is connected to the legendary Jewish community of The Lower East Side. Long before the publication of the 2000 Census, my students already recognized ethnic change by the spread of Hebrew characters on store signs, Stars of David, Yeshivas, synagogues, schuls, and mikvahs. They easily recognized the strictly segregated groups of males and females, the wigs or covered heads and long dresses of women, and the bearded, hatted men wearing black suits, white shirts and no ties. Much more difficult for them to understand are mezuzahs affixed to doorways, and the succahs built on the balconies of apartments, or in the yards. Mezuzahs are encased bits of scripture, and succahs are outdoor eating areas used during certain religious festivals.
People often speak of Latino neighborhoods as though they were ethnically homogeneous, but the diversity of Latinos in Sunset Park is attested to by obvious and subtler signs. One thing they all have in common is highly stylized graffitti and colorful murals, some of which commemorate the tragic deaths of local youths. Throughout Sunset Park, but especially in the Latino quarter, an observer might spy Puerto Rican flags painted on murals, hanging in apartment windows or front yards. It is possible that such visual expressions of ethnic pride are also symbolic protests against the recent invasion of the neighborhood by Mexicans, and the encroachment of Asians, and even Orthodox Jews.
Just as one might caution that “not all” Europeans or Asians look alike, Latinos in Sunset Park who trace their origins to Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Central America display a physiognomic variety. In addition, at least until they assimilate American styles, they also dress differently. One example is the “western” dress of many of the Mexican men: what my students generally refer to as “cowboy” hats and boots. The most recent female immigrants from places like Guatemala and Honduras are also noticed because they continue to wear pieces from their colorful native costumes. This transition from “foreign” to American dress codes seems to be true among all of Sunset Park’s immigrants. It is the young males in all groups who are most likely, and most quickly, to dress, as do their American-born teenage cohorts.
As to local stores catering to Latinos, or bodegas, outside one of them is a sign hand-written Spanish claiming that “real” Nicaraguan food is sold here. If the “Spanish spoken here” postings (en espanol) are insufficient clues, others hawking Productos Tropicales, Dominicanos, or Mexicanos, are prominently posted, as well as national symbols such as flags, or patriotic color schemes. But here caution must be exercised. For example, and for good reason, several of my students misread the Mexican red, green, and white tricolor as an Italian ethnic marker. More certain icons of Mexican presence are various stylized illustrations of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (Vergine de Guadalupe) in the windows of homes and businesses, or sometimes painted on exterior walls. It was also not difficult for my students to decipher the origin of the “Acapulco Car Service” on Seventh Avenue, but they were less likely to place the names of towns and cities, like Xalapa, displayed in the windows of shops which provided long-distance telephone services.
A special opportunity to recognize Dominicanos occurred when Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs, was chasing Roger Maris’ home run record a few years ago. In Sunset Park the word “Sosa” and/or the current number of his round tripper output were prominently displayed wherever Dominicans might gather. One innovative method for this expression of Dominican ethnic pride was soaping rear windows of cars with his name and numbers. This practice caused a driving hazard, and a short-lived crisis in police-community relations as traffic tickets were given out for obstructing the driver’s view through the rear view mirror. Strict enforcement of the law was moderated after protests led by Latino members of the New York City Council.
There are many obvious indicators of ethnic transition and competition in Sunset Park such as the red and gold “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs with details written in Chinese characters, and the Korean grade school at the local Presbyterian church, or the multitude of store front “Spanish” Pentecostal churches. Observations made in mid-winter will bring mention of the Chanukah menorahs in the windows that compete with festive Christmas lights during the month of December. During the Spring 2000 field trip, my students took note of the exterior decorations on homes and businesses made in preparation for the celebration of Chinese New Year.
The economic competition among poor and working-class immigrants is displayed in the form of the multi-ethnic “shape ups” on a few street corners at the industrially zoned edges of the neighborhood. At all hours of the day, but especially in the early morning hours, Slavs (mostly Polish men) congregate on one side of the street, and Latinos (mostly Mexican and other Central American men) on the other. Their potential employers cruise by in their cars and trucks, stop and bargain with the men over a day’s pay. My students are also keen-eyed enough to record the locations of Sunset Park’s numerous legal and illegal sweatshops. Especially in warm weather, when the doors are open, passersby can get a glimpse of the predominately female, Latino and Chinese workers. On all the commercial streets, Chinese, Latino, and Polish employment agencies use foreign language signs that appeal to their different ethnic labor pools. Printed or hand-written signs such as “Operators Wanted,” in various languages, are also occasionally posted outside the entrances to the local needle trades sweatshops. In addition to properties zoned for industry, many sweatshops are found workspaces created by converting garages or large retail stores. These, often illegal and dangerous conversions, are common visual features of poor and working-class immigrant neighborhoods.
The mixing together of different ethnic groups in neighborhood spaces happens as an accidental confluence of interests such as shopping at the Birkal Market, or working at the same sweatshop. At the local playgrounds, hordes of children are brought by their female Orthodox Jewish, Moslem, and Chinese guardians to play in their own, socially circumscribed, groups. In late afternoon and evening, the playgrounds are taken over by ethnically exclusive bunches of Asian or Latino teenagers who come to “hang.” In this regard, some of my more aware students have brought to my attention ethnic “gang” symbols which knowledgeable teenagers recognize as claims to control of the territory.
One sign of potentially positive multi-ethnic group relations was a Language School on Eighth Avenue that offered to teach English to everyone by stating so in at least ten different languages above its display window. But throughout the rest of the neighborhood much less open stances toward difference were expressed architecturally in the form of barred windows, reinforced security doors, gates, and locked fences that were quite in evidence on both residential and commercial properties. The bars and gates were most visible in the Chinese and Jewish areas. Here some ethnic differences in appearance can be seen. In the Chinese part of the neighborhood students noted the oriental designs in the more or less decorative ironwork. Also apparent were the large dogs, as pets and/or protection, which were a more common feature of Latino as opposed to either the Asian or Orthodox Jewish areas. Another difference in the way residential property was defended were the alarm boxes, and television security cameras that scanned the entrances and drive ways of the large homes owned by better off Orthodox Jewish residents.
Theories: Spatial Semiotics, Assimilation, Visual Sociology, and Vernacular Landscapes
It is difficult to argue with David Harvey when he says such things as: “Different classes construct their sense of territory and community in radically different ways. This elemental fact is often overlooked by those theorists who presume a priori that there is some ideal-typical and universal tendency for all human beings to construct a human community of roughly similar sort, no matter what the political or economic circumstances.” (Harvey, 1989:265) And, that for the powerless “the main way to dominate space is through continuous appropriation. Exchange values are scarce, and so the pursuit of use values for daily survival is central to social action. This means frequent material and interpersonal transactions and the formation of very small-scale communities. Within the community space, use values get shared through some mix of mutual aid and mutual predation, creating tight but often highly conflictual interpersonal social bonding in both private and public spaces. The result is an often intense attachment to place and “turf” and an exact sense of boundaries because it is only through active appropriation that control over space is assured.” (Harvey, 1989:265-66.)
Furthermore, a variant of Anthony Giddens’ “structuration theory” cautions that new shop signs in a neighborhood “taken over” by new immigrants are easily noticed, but “seeing” the uses and/or meanings of space require sensitivity and understanding of the particular culture that creates, maintains, and uses the re-signified space. In other words even the most powerless of urban dwellers is a social “agent” and therefore participates in the local reproduction of regional, national, and global societal relations (Giddens, 1984).
In American social discourse, the term "ethnics" ordinarily refers to the millions of poor and working class immigrants who poured into the United States between 1880 and 1920, and their more or less assimilated descendants. Most of these groups estab¬lished themselves in already built up places where they lacked the power to radically alter their environments. As they became assimilated, or "Americanized," they adopted the environmental values of the dominant society. Therefore only limited "traces" or mere "architectural vestiges" of the original home territorial values can be found. Assimilation theorists argue that when immigrants are no more likely to live with one another than with “Americans” then they have become another dissolved ingredient in the melting pot. This implies that when ethnic enclaves are gone so is ethnicity itself. For Euro-Americans, Richard Alba has termed this process the “Twilight of Ethnicity.” (Alba, 1985)
As¬similationism is also an ideology that argues that immigrant groups ought to melt into, and become indistinguishable parts from the whole. On the other end of the spectrum is the current ideology of Multiculturalism, which is predicated upon the notion that not only do distinct cultural groups continue to exist in American society, but that their dis¬tinctiveness ought to be preserved. George M. Fredrickson commenting on race and citizenship in the United States notes that:" "The growth of ethnic consciousness among blacks and the desire of Latino and Asian immigrants to preserve aspects of their culture have made "multiculturalism", rather than simple integrationism, the dominant anti-racist ideology in the United States today." (Fredrickson, 2002:5) The rise of Multiculturalism as an ideology is also directly linked to the “Post-1965” immigration which allow the entry into the country of a spectrum of peoples that reflected the diversity of the world population. Prior to that time the law favored immigrants who reflected the US population, with few exceptions, circa 1920. Additional factors that favor retention of immigrant cultures today are advanced communication and transportation technologies that make it possible to stay connected to places of origin. The population diversity of places like Sunset Park is also enhanced and even maintained by a constant flow of undocumented aliens.
According to Alejandro Portes and The Economic Sociology of Immigration today's immigrants still have a need for ethnic concentration because they lack much in the way of Social Capital or “the capacity of individuals to command scarce resources by virtue of their membership in networks or broader social structures.” (Portes, 1995:12.) For all immigrants, the ethnic enclave facilitates their employment and they are found in virtually every location where immigrant labor is required. In contrast to Euro-Americans, Portes posits that today a different social context exists for second-generation immigrants who even though acculturated may not be able to enter the white mainstream. Therefore, for them remaining in the enclave is not necessarily a "symptom of escapism" but a rational strategy for survival. In contrast, we might say ethnic concentration among Euro-Americans is an aspect of “Voluntary” or “Symbolic Ethnicity”. (See especially: Waters, 1990.)
The work of Lyn Lofland adds another dimension to our understanding of ethnicized spaces by noting that: “The city, because of its size, is the locus of a peculiar social situation: the people found within its boundaries at any given moment know nothing personally about the vast majority of others with whom they share this space.” (Lofland, 1985: 3)Urban life is made possible by “ordering” the populace in terms of appearance and spatial location so that people “could know a great deal about one another by simply looking.” (Lofland, 1985: 22) If immigrants could, they might replicate the spaces from which they came by transforming public space into private or semiprivate space and creating urban villages. (Lofland, 1985: 119)
John Brinkerhoff Jackson informs us that the common¬place aspects of the streets, houses and fields and places of work can teach us about our¬selves and how we relate to the world around us. For him the "Vernacular Landscape" lies underneath the symbols of permanent power expressed in the "Political Landscape". It is flexible without overall plan and contains spaces organized and used in their traditional way. Vernacular landscapes are part of the life of communities that are governed by custom and held together by personal relationships. For him and his students "vernacular landscape cannot be comprehended unless we perceive it as an organization of space; unless we ask ourselves who owns the spaces, how they were created and how they change." (Jackson, 1984: 6)
For Dolores Hayden, ethnic urban landscapes consist of ethnic vernacular buildings, ethnic spatial patterns, ethnic vernacular arts traditions, and "territorial histories" which are "the history of bounded space, with some enforcement of the boundary, used as a way of defining political and economic power. It is the political and temporal complement of the cognitive map; it is an account of both inclusion and exclusion." (Hayden, 1990:7) Others such as Wilbur Zelinsky believe that there are no meaningful ethnic landscapes. Doubting their "ethnic authenticity" he believes that "exotic tidbits" found in ethnic neighborhoods are merely cosmetic. (Zelinsky, 1991:8)
Douglas Harper divided Visual Sociology into two types: “Visual Methods, where researchers ‘take’ photographs in order to study social worlds.” And “Visual Studies” in which researchers “analyze images that are produced by the culture”. In this second approach, “sociologists typically explore the semiotics, or sign systems, of different visual communication systems”. (Harper, 1988) John Grady broadened the visual perspective by defining it pragmatically. 1. “Seeing”: how sight and vision helps construct social organization and meaning.” 2. “Communicating with Icons “, looks to how images and imagery can both inform and be used to manage social relations. And 3. “Doing Sociology Visually” or “… how the techniques of producing and decoding images can be used to empirically investigate social organization, cultural meaning and psychological processes.” Here the techniques, methodologies and concerns of Visual Sociology are the best known and where the camera and other techniques of representation play crucial roles in the analytic process (Grady, 1996:14).
Finally, Jon Rieger notes that among many research advantages, such as freezing a complex scene or enabling unobtrusive measurement, “Photography is well-suited to the study of social change because of its capacity to record a scene with far greater speed and completeness than could ever be accomplished by a human observer taking notes.” (Rieger, 1996: 6) Given the rapidly changing scenes, the value of visual methods and techniques is therefore obvious. Visual Sociology of the most deteriorated central city area would vividly demonstrate the “Human Agency” of even the least empowered. If only by capturing the “deliberate efforts of human beings, thinking and acting, alone or in concert” to create or modify the spaces they occupy, demonstrated in the marking of their own vernacular landscapes with graffitti and vandalism. (See: Dickinson, 1996:82, and Vergara, 1995).
Visual Sociology and Vernacular Landscapes are connected via Spatial Semiotics, defined by Mark Gottdiener as "the study of culture which links symbols to objects.” (Gottdiener, 1994:15-16) According to him the most basic concept for urban studies study is the settle¬ment space “…built by people who have followed some meaningful plan for the purposes of con¬taining economic, political, and cultural activi¬ties. Within it people organize their daily actions according to meaningful aspects of the constructed space."(Gottdiener, 1994:16) Despite this agency, of course, neighborhoods are not autonomous. They are tied into national and global economic systems and are therefore affected by a wide range of supply side forces. Borrowing from Sharon Zukin’s insight into “patterns of cultural and social reproduction” in the processes of gentrification (Zukin, 1987:131) it should be possible to see how the values of the less powerful are also reflected in metropolitan residential and commercial landscapes.
David Harvey’s “Grid of Spatial Practices,” borrows from Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991), which construct a bridge between old and the new ways of looking at city life. He succinctly describes the city is an arena of social conflict and struggle where commanding and producing spaces also reproduces and enhances power. (Harvey, 1989:261-64) For our purposes here two of his six spatial practices are most relevant: The appropriation of space; which examines the way in which space is used and occupied by individuals, classes, or other social groupings. Systematized and institutionalized appropriation may entail the production of territorially bounded forms of social solidarity. And, the domination of space; which reflects how individuals or powerful groups dominate the organization and production of space so as to exercise a greater degree of control either over the friction of distance or over the manner in which space is appropriated by themselves or others. What is a better introduction to the ethnic neighborhood than when Harvey speaks of spatial dominance in the following way: “Successful control presumes a power to exclude unwanted elements. Fine-tuned ethnic, religious, racial, and status discriminations are frequently called into play within such a process of community construction.” (Harvey, 1989:266)
Manuel Castells provides us with a different kind of insight into how real and imagined urban spaces are used, contested, and transformed by different social groups by noting that because power is information, “Spaces of Places” are superceded by networks of information or “Spaces of Flows”. Along with this comes the tribalization of local communities. As local identities lose meaning, place based societies and cultures (cities, neighborhoods) also lose power. Castells also believes that this momentum toward the total disempowerment of urban dwellers can be reversed by the reconstruction of place-based meaning via social and spatial projects at three levels; cultural, economic, and political. For this essay it is the cultural level which is most relevant for local societies. Territorially defined ethnic groups can preserve their identities and build on their historical roots by the “symbolic marking of places”, preservation of “symbols of recognition”, and the “expression of collective memory in actual practices of communication”. At the same time he cautions against the “over-affirmation” of local identity which could lead to tribalism and fundamentalism. (Castells, 1989,1996)
Bourdieu defines Symbolic Capital as “The collection of luxury goods attesting to the taste and distinction of the owner.” (Bourdieu, 1977:188) Furthermore, he notes that since “the most successful ideological effects are those which have no words, and ask no more than complicitious silence, so the production of symbolic capital serves ideological functions, because the mechanisms through which it contributes to the reproduction of the established order and to the perpetuation of domination remain hidden.”( Bourdieu, 1977:188., See also: Bourdieu, 1984, and King, 1996:112-136.) In so many ways ethnic, especially immigrant, enclaves are Social Capital, and for a Visual Sociologist like me these “hidden” reproductions are in “plain view.”
As Symbolic Capital, ethnic enclaves are products and sources of both social and cultural capital. M. Patricia Fernandez-Kelly adds that the social networks of the poor differ substantially from more affluent groups and she distinguishes therefore between Social, and “Cultural” Capital- or “a repository of symbols and meanings interactively created and dependent on the conditions that generate social capital.” (Fernandez-Kelly, 1995:213) In a very real sense the vernacular landscape of ethnic neighborhoods reflects both social and cultural capital.
Central to the notion of the possibility of Seeing Community in a Multicultural Society are the spaces and places created and maintained by more and less recent immigrant groups. The Visual Sociology of the Vernacular Landscapes allows us to “see” how immigrants and others are both products and producers of space. Regardless of perspective one cannot fail to recognize the agency and symbolic life of ordinary people, while at the same time see the greater power of others to determine their ultimate fate. A visual approach demonstrates how what I have termed “Traces of Home” (Krase, 1993) and Lefebvre might call “material spatial practices” are transformed via “representations of space” into “spaces of representation.” “Material social practices refer to the physical and material flows, transfers, and interactions that occur in and across space in such a way as to ensure production and social reproduction. Representations of space encompass all of the signs and significations, codes and knowledge, that allow such material practices to be talked about and understood, no matter whether in terms of everyday common sense or through the sometimes arcane jargon of the academic disciplines that deal with spatial. Spaces of representations are social inventions that seek to generate new meanings and possibilities for spatial practices. (Harvey, 1989:261)
In my study of urban neighborhoods I have tried to maintain the edge of my own sociological imagination; “…a quality of mind that seems most dramatically to promise an understanding of the intimate realities of ourselves in connection with larger social realities.” (Mills, 1959:15). Ethnic enclaves are a product and source of both social and cultural capital. Although ordinary people in the neighborhood are ultimately at the mercy of distant forces, in their naivete they continue to create and modify the local spaces allocated to them, and which inevitably become part of the urban landscape. Thusly people and spaces become symbols. They come to represent themselves and thereby lose their autonomy.
We can now re-visit the question of what makes it possible for people who are different from each other to live in peace. As we read from Feliks for Gross. “… an association of different peoples, ethnic groups with equal rights for all, free of discrimination by public authorities, necessitates the need for a common bond that would embrace all, a broad bond, and in the hierarchy of accepted standards, one that rises above ethnic or racial identification; in a word, a common denominator for all. Citizenship is such a bond, it is also a vital common denominator.” (Gross, 1999:xiii) But legal citizenship is insufficient unless authorities and ordinary members of society alike are able to recognize the common humanity of all peoples in multicultural societies as expressed in the way they present their particular local spatial versions of universal human community.
The question remains why my academic guests from Poland and Italy did not see anything that reminded them of Poland or Italy in neighborhoods that Americans would say are Little Polands or Little Italies. This question can be addressed in several different ways. The most relevant is that America’s hyphenated-ethnic appearances are a matter of “class.” Most European professors think of themselves as members of the Intelligentsia who historically have expressed considerable disdain for their lower class compatriots who have come to represent their nations in the minds of Americans. Members of elite social classes maintain considerable virtual and actual social distances between themselves and those below them in their own countries. In Italy, for example, there also continues to be a bias against southern Italians who make up the greatest proportion of Italian Americans. In a related vein America’s Polonia has historically come primarily from the less educated, rural and working-class Polish citizenry. Despite decades of failed Communist party rule, Poland is still a very class-conscious society. The combination of what these visiting intellectuals consider the rather crass American commercialism, and the mostly working-class residents on these shopping strips who it is claimed “represent” their esteemed cultural and national heritage was enough to make them cringe. It is also another expression of the role that seeing plays in creating social distance between those who share multicultural urban spaces. If Europeans when the visit the United States cannot recognize the community they share with co-nationalists living there, it makes it easier to understand why they have difficulty recognizing the community which they share with new immigrants to Europe. I hope in this essay I have outlined if not synthesized many different theoretical aspects, and then offered pedagogy for teaching about the problem of "Seeing Community in a Multicultural Society."
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