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Ghetto: The History of a Word
Daniel B. Schwartz
Harvard University Press
Daniel B. Schwartz specializes in modern European and American Jewish intellectual, cultural, and urban history. He is the author of Ghetto: The History of a Word, which traces the various and contested meanings of the word “ghetto” from sixteenth-century Venice to the present. His other books include Spinoza’s Challenge to Jewish Thought: Writings on His Life, Philosophy, and Legacy and The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image, which was co-winner of the 2012 American Academy for Jewish Research’s Salo W. Baron Prize for best first book in Jewish studies and a finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in history. He is currently working on a history of the Lower East Side that chronicles this most famous of immigrant neighborhoods from its mid-nineteenth-century German-American heyday to its present-day gentrification. His research interests include Jews and the city, Jewish historical consciousness, early modern and modern Jewish identities, Jewish secularism, Jewish intellectuals, and Black-Jewish relations.
Duneier’s book also tries to be a history of the ghetto, as an institution primarily. But it focuses almost exclusively on the ghetto in African American social thought from the 1940s to the present. So it’s able to dig much deeper into the history of the Black ghetto, or understandings of the Black ghetto. I think it’s an excellent book.
The book is about the transition of one particular neighborhood in Chicago—Lawndale—which was a heavily Jewish area in the early to middle decades of the twentieth century, but then became almost exclusively African American. She looks at some of the specific housing policies, and the role that Jews played. It’s a fascinating book about Black-Jewish relations, about housing policy, about the conditions and the policies that are needed to create and maintain the Black ghetto in this country.