of Little Italies
Professor Jerome Krase
Sociology Department, Brooklyn College, CUNY
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). Little Italy is a product and source of both social and cultural capital. Although ordinary people in the neighborhood are ultimately at the mercy of distant structural forces, in their naivete they continue to create and modify local spaces allocated to them, and inevitably become part of the urban landscape. Thusly people and spaces become symbols. They come to represent themselves and thereby lose their autonomy. The enclave comes to symbolize its imagined inhabitants and stands for them independent of their residence in it. Localized reproductions of cultural spaces can also be easily commodified. For example, The expropriated cultural capital of the Italian American vernacular such as resistance to diversity and cultural insularity, perhaps even intolerance, becomes a sales point in real estate parlance as a quaint "safe" neighborhood, with "old world charm", and romantically symbolizing the "way its used to be".