Curtis C. Roseman, Hans Dieter Laux, Gunther Thieme, eds. EthniCity: Geographic Perspectives on Ethnic Change in Modern Cities. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996. xxviii + 309 pp. $30.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8476-8033-7; $84.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8476-8032-0.
Reviewed by Howard Lune (New York University)
Published on H-PCAACA (December, 1996)
Ethnic Change in the World's Cities
Recent studies of globalization have emphasized culture clashes and cultural accommodation in the relocation of masses of people across increasingly fluid national borders. Ethnicity studies, often unrelated to this literature, examine how different regions respond to the introduction of increasingly large numbers of immigrants into their largest cities. EthniCity brings the two lines together through geographers' eyes. The editors of this impressive collection seek to develop, or at least outline through comparative case studies, a general model of changing ethnic relations that incorporates local cultures, prejudices, and histories in most major cities. And, while they do not entirely succeed, the collection of papers that they present, mostly based on the 1992 International Geographic Union Population Geography Symposium, provides most of what one would need to begin such a task. Indeed, the promise of the model and the method is so great that one anxiously awaits the book that will follow this one, in which it will be put to more rigorous use.
Curtis Roseman and his coeditors introduce the notion of EthniCities as highly populated urban areas in developed countries that are only recently facing significant ethnic diversity "along with cities that have a longer history of ethnic diversity, [and which] contain varieties of peoples having distinctive cultures and origins" (p. xvii). The focal cities are the frontiers of globalization, each reacting in its own way to international forces. The work ambitiously attempts to achieve both local and global awareness, with more than one hundred figures and tables detailing the movement of people over time, across national borders, and throughout neighborhoods. The generalizability of EthniCities as a sensitizing concept is laid out by the editors in broad terms. "In EthniCities, various combinations of ethnic group often compete for housing, employment, educational resources, and political representation" (p. xvii).
The strength of the concept lies in its stress on the experience of ethnic difference regardless of actual country of origin. As a definition, however, their term is so broad that it becomes difficult to imagine any sizable urban area, or any heterogeneous distribution of people, that would not be encompassed by it. The final chapter, by Frederick Boal, provides the only attempt to give real structure to the book's project, but the introductory description neatly defines the limits inherent in such an effort. "Boal concludes that the 'rich harvest both of similarity and of contrast in urban ethnic experience' ... calls for additional, broader comparative research" (p. xxvi). I agree, but one might have hoped for more immediate gratification.
Most of the chapters closely examine institutionalized cultural limits on integration, which often relate to visible measures of similarity between the dominant groups and `others.' Several examples address the role of non-whites, or non-English speaking people in predominantly white, English regions, although instances of racism are by no means restricted to any demographic category. Allen & Turner's study of diversity and segregation in Los Angeles, for example, examines "White exodus" coupled with "efforts by Whites to contain the Black population within sharply defined ghettos" as one of the five crucial factors determining the distribution of residencies. Graeme Hugo, in "diversity down under," notes that Sydney and Melbourne have numerous agencies to help immigrants assimilate, but that "the NES [non-English speaking]-origin groups are underusers of many mainstream services in comparison with the population as a whole due to institutional, language, cultural and other barriers that prevent them from gaining information about the services" (70). McEvoy's focus on London's first attempt at an ethnic census as the key to the city's beliefs about ethnicity reveals "that the census has made the assumption that being White involves membership in a group that requires no subdivision" (p. 99).
The principal contribution of the book emerges from the compatible methodology and data collection employed throughout. The thread joining most of the chapters is a shared unit of measurement, the index of dissimilarity (D), which reflects the percentage of a group's population that would have to relocate in order to match the distribution of a comparison group, usually the dominant one. This emphasis on spatial distribution by ethnic category, rather than on immigration policy, allows the vital inclusion of data on African Americans and Australian Aboriginals, neither of whom are immigrants, and neither of whom are perceived or treated as integrated members of the local culture. Dissimilarity is key to the book's analytic focus. Visibility, rather than degree of assimilation or numbers of generations born in a place, convincingly emerges as the best predictor for how regions will react to different immigrant groups. And this is a point worth pressing in all cross-national studies.
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Howard Lune. Review of Roseman, Curtis C.; Laux, Hans Dieter; Thieme, Gunther, eds., EthniCity: Geographic Perspectives on Ethnic Change in Modern Cities.
H-PCAACA, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 1996 by H-Net and the Popular Culture and the American Culture Associations, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact P.C. Rollins at Rollins@osuunx.ucc.okstate.edu or the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.