Jerry Krase
Professor of Sociology
Brooklyn College


Our Lady of Mount Carmel Festa Parade in "Italian Harlem"

Visual Sociology and attention to Vernacular Landscapes in the inner city allow us to see conflict, competition, and dominance at a level not usually noticed and which can easily be related to the theories and descriptions of Lefebvre and Bourdieu. What is a better introduction to the ethnic neighborhood than when Harvey speaks of spatial dominance thusly: "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." (266)

It has been forcefully argued by many, and especially Castells (1983, 1996), that as we moved from a traditional to a modern, and now to a post-modern society, technologically driven changes have reduced the efficacy of locally based institutions. But against all odds some ethnic urban villages, initially established to provide mutual assistance and support among immigrants, have survived. Residual, white-ethnic, working-class central city neighborhoods (especially Little Italies) are well suited to demonstrate the ways in which all social groups transform as well as defend space. Because of their situational longevity, Italian American neighborhoods have been the venues for the complete, and still ongoing, series of urban transformations; from the "New" Immigration of the turn of the Century , through the Melting Pot of assimilation, the uprooting of urban renewal, the tensions of racial change, the displacement of gentrification, and the multicultural confusion of the newest "New" Immigration.