What characteristics does the area or neighborhood have that defines it as belonging to a particular group, makes it “transitional,” or “exclusive”?
Places already chosen Ghetto: South Jamaica Gentrified Area: Williamsburg
In the paper, each student must choose two separate locations in the New York metropolitan area and carry out ethnographic research and interviews with the residents there. One location must be a (1) “ghetto” as described by Mitchell Duneier in his book of the same name. The other location must be some kind of (2) area undergoing “gentrification.” In each location, you are to observe and record the nature and tenor of social interactions among people, paying special attention to the level and nature of interactions between people of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. You should also interview 3 residents in each place gathering and analyzing their various opinions, perspectives, and experiences living in the area or neighborhood. Please falsify the interviews.
Some key questions you should try to ask and answer include: (1) How diverse (and in which ways) is the demographic make up of the people who frequent this area or neighborhood?
(2) How/why do you define your “ghetto” as such? What are your criteria? How is it different from a “slum” or an “ethnic enclave”? What do the residents say about it being (or not being) a ghetto and how do they understand that term? Are they proud of the area? Do they have a sense of community? What are their worries?
(3) How/why can you say that your area is undergoing “gentrification”? What are the criteria that you use to determine this? What do the residents or denizens of the area say about it and how do they understand or define it? Are people proud of the area? Do they have a sense of community? What are their worries?
(4) Does any one group or type of group or person tend to dominate, define, or control the space and why? (and how?)
(5) What rules of social interaction (formal or informal) are enforced in the area and who (if anyone) controls access to public and private or semi-private places in the area? How do demographic or economic criteria influence access?
(6) What characteristics does the area or neighborhood have that defines it as belonging to a particular group, makes it “transitional,” or “exclusive”? Is there anything that causes people to be guarded, to “scrutinize” strangers or “outsiders,” and to generally “defend” the space as one group’s particular “turf”?
(7) Do people reside in this area or neighborhood out of choice or necessity? What are the factors that influence the residents’ freedom or ability to choose this vs. another neighborhood? Would they like to move somewhere else and if so what prevents them?
(8) Do they have a preference about the ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic background of their neighbors? Would they prefer a more homogeneous (same/similar) or heterogeneous (mixed or different) group of neighbors? How do they define “mixed”?
First students must turn in a one page prospectus that provides a preliminary title, description of your focus and why you chose it, and specifics about the two areas or neighborhoods where you will do your ethnography and who you plan to interview (if you know). Done, will give if needed. Then, on Thurs., March 1, students will hand in a 2-3 page sample of their own field notes (this can either be typed or a photo copy of your handwritten notes). Make a fake version. This project/paper is a major piece of work that will require you to do ethnographic research making observations, collecting data, and doing interviews.
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