Desegregating the City: Ghettos, Enclaves & Inequality is a two-part compilation of chapters devoted to defining the forms and functions of segregation and the ways of mediating its negative effects to promote race, ethnic and class equality. Part I, Defining Segregation and Its Consequences, is largely dedicated to analytically distinguishing between the concepts "ghetto" and "ethnic enclave." While the authors differ somewhat in how they define these terms, they seem to be in general agreement that ghettos and enclaves are very different types of spatial concentration distinguished primarily by (1. whether or not residence is involuntary or voluntary (2. the functions they serve, and (3. the extent to which state intervention is necessary.
Without question, these contributors argue, the ghetto is the worst of these two types because resident populations are forced to live in its borders, it perpetuates hierarchical relationships of domination, and thus it deserves state intervention to eliminate. Ethnic enclaves, they argue, are quite different from ghettos; enclaves are characterized by voluntary residence and serve positive social and economic functions. For example, whereas Peter Marcuse (Chapter 1) defines a ghetto as "an area of spatial concentration used by forces within the dominant society to separate and to limit a particular population group, defined as racial or ethnic or foreign and to be held to be, and treated as, inferior by the dominant group" (17), he distinguishes the enclave as an area in which "self-defined" ethnic, religious, or other groups "congregate as a means of protecting and enhancing their economic, social, political, and/or cultural development."(17) Although Ceri Peach (Chapter 2) partially characterizes (African-American style) ghettos as negative and enforced, he sees ethnic enclaves as positive and voluntary. And while Mohammad A. Qadeer (Chapter 3) contends that "classical ghettos" are historically rooted in racism and discrimination and encompass areas where "housing blight is intertwined with poverty and social disadvantages,"(59) he argues that "ethnic segregation" or "ethnic clusters" are instead composed of residents who have voluntarily chosen to live where they do "because they benefit both residents (due [End Page 611] to mutual support networks and strong community organizations) and the metropolitan area as a whole (through tourism-induced economic development and the more intangible benefits associated with cultural diversity)…"(60) Finally, they argue, because enclaves do not necessarily give birth to or nurture mechanisms that reproduce social inequality, they are not so objectionable and thus do not require state intervention.
Unfortunately, the first four chapters contributed to Part I leave murky the analytical space between the "ghetto" and the "enclave." This is primarily for two reasons. First, like ethnic identities (Nagel 1994; Espiritu 1992), ethnic enclaves are at best the product of both a desire to be with one's own as well as a function of exclusion from dominant members of society, two interrelated factors. Instead of considering the ghetto-enclave distinction in categorical terms – voluntary residence rooted in a desire to be with one's own vs. involuntary residence rooted in racism and institutional discrimination – these contributors might have gained more analytical leverage by considering that the differences they outline are far more of degree than kind.
Second, even if, for argument's sake, we were to assume that ghettos are "negatively enforced" while enclaves are "positively embraced," the authors proposing this distinction do so in an under-theorized way, failing to analytically link the dialectical processes that produce spatial concentration characterized by negative enforcement and those that produce voluntary embrace. These are part and parcel the same underlying process. Just as we cannot disentangle processes that create advantage from those that give birth to disadvantage, and just as we cannot analytically distinguish processes of inclusion from those that exclude, we cannot so simply and categorically disconnect processes that create and maintain ghettos, in one space, ethnic enclaves in another, and predominantly white, affluent, gated communities in still another. They each represent points on the spatial concentration continuum in which racial, ethnic and class hierarchies are reproduced. Scholars would be misguided to...