For three hundred years the ghetto defined Jewish culture in the late medieval and early modern period in Western Europe. In the nineteenth-century it was a free-floating concept which traveled to Eastern Europe and the United States. Eastern European "ghettos", which enabled genocide, were crudely rehabilitated by the Nazis during World War Two as if they were part of a benign medieval tradition. In the United States, the word ghetto was routinely applied to endemic black ghettoization which has lasted from 1920 until the present. Outside of America "the ghetto" has been universalized as the incarnation of class difference, or colonialism, or apartheid, and has been applied to segregated cities and countries throughout the world.
In this Very Short Introduction Bryan Cheyette unpicks the extraordinarily complex layers of contrasting meanings that have accrued over five hundred years to ghettos, considering their different settings across the globe. He considers core questions of why and when urban, racial, and colonial ghettos have appeared, and who they contain. Exploring their various identities, he shows how different ghettos interrelate, or are contrasted, across time and space, or even in the same place.
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