Urban Underworlds

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-12-10
  • Publisher: Rutgers Univ Pr

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Urban Underworldsis an exploration of city spaces, pathologized identities, lurid fears, and American literature. Surveying one hundred years of history, Thomas Heise chronicles how and why marginalized populations-immigrant Americans in the Lower East Side, gays and lesbians in Greenwich Village and downtown Los Angeles, the black underclass in Harlem and Chicago, and the new urban poor dispersed across American cities-have been selectively targeted as "urban underworlds" and their neighborhoods characterized as miasmas of disease and moral ruin. Fusing sociology, urban planning, and criminology with literary and cultural studies, Heise maps the underworld of urban America from the 1890s to the 1990s. During this time, the quarantining of minority cultures in vice districts, segregated ghettos, and ethnic slums helped to promote white, middle-class privilege during a century of urban upheaval. Following a diverse array of literary figures, from Henry James to Don DeLillo, who differ with this assessment,Urban Underworldscontends that the underworld is not the space of the monstrous Other, but a place where besieged and neglected communities are actively trying to take possession of their own neighborhoods.

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