Ethnic geography

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Chapter Outline

California State University, Northridge


How do you define “ethnic”?

How does one become “ethnic”? (birth-migration)

The census is partly responsible for creating ethnic identities

Host Culture

What does “race” mean then?

What does “nationality” mean?

Geography matters

Place Makes Race

If there was not the friction of distance, races and ethnicities would not develop.

Without spatially enforced separation erosion of ethnicity and racial identity occurs.

Maintaining Ethnicity

The Good and The Bad

Keep alive cultural traditions and maintain group cohesion

Family, kinship, courtship, friendship

Recreation, political power, business

Suspicion, distrust, clannishness and violence

Q: According to lecture, scientific evidence now suggests which of the following is not a valid method of grouping people:

A. Ethnicity

B. Race

C. Nationality

D. Religion

Merge now...

Acculturation -adoption of enough host culture ways to blend in economically and socially

Assimilation - complete blending and loss of distinctive ethnic traits.

Marriage the most effective assimilative tool

Groups may choose not to assimilate

Groups may not be permitted to assimilate.

Chinatown (fig)

Ethnic Regions

Ethnic Groups arrange themselves or are arranged in a variety of patterns on the landscape that can be mapped.

They may be large, covering many states as “ethnic homelands”

They may be small, comprising just few blocks as an ethnic neighborhood or ghetto.

American Ethnic Regions (fig)

Ethnic Homelands (fig)

Francophone Louisiana (fig)

Ethnic Islands

Much smaller than a “homeland”

May be only a county or town

Often rural

All over the upper Midwest

Midwestern Ethnic Island (fig)

Ethnic Island Landscapes (fig)

Ethnic Substrate

Is akin to an extinct ethnic homeland or a huge assimilated ethnic island.

The German feel to the upper Midwest is an example.

No one really seems too German, but there is a lot of beer and brats.

Why would such a place die out?

Q: More Americans self-report this as their ethnic heritage than any other:

A. English

B. French

C. Mexican

D. German

Ethnic Neighborhoods and Ghettos

Ghetto vs. Ethnic Neighborhood

Ancient history and globality

Difficulties with definition

Slums vs. ghetto

Discriminatory housing practices include redlining, steering and block busting

Suburban Ghettos?

Ethnicities in Los Angeles

Whites are now a minority-majority in Los Angeles at 40% of the population and inhabit the edges.

Blacks in South LA

Latinos in East LA

Asians are scattered in various locations

Black Ghettos

The most well known of American ghettos are reserved for African Americans

The oldest are in the Deep South and are characterized by close integration among whites and blacks – “Early Southern”

After the Civil War, the “Classic Southern” version evolves and is more segregated and features the “across the tracks” ghetto

Northern ghettos are concentrated near the Central Business District in the “inner city”.

Western ghettos generally trend along a transportation corridor.

Black Migration

Though the South still has many blacks, millions left.


Clarksdale, Miss.

Route 61


Black Ghetto Typology (fig)

Detroit (fig)

Charlotte (fig)

Houston (fig)

Why live in a ghetto?


Defense and Safety



Who are our “Ethnics”?

In 1840s- Germans, Chinese and Irish came in large numbers

Italians, Poles, and Eastern European Jews came in the latter half of the 19thc

Intra-American migration brought Blacks and hillbillies into the city

Later still: Puerto Ricans and other Latin Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.

Cities have Ethnic “specialties”

New York and ____________

Miami and _____________

DC and ___________________

Providence and __________________

Boston and _______________

Little Havana (fig)

There goes the neighborhood…

Most ethnic neighborhoods grow and change. Eventually they lose their character and acquire a new one.

Invasion Succession (fig)

We’re not the only ones…

Each country has a different ethnic mix. It is what makes for the national character of a country.

One of the main reasons that the United States, Canada and Mexico are different is our different ethnic mixes.

There are also different emphases on acculturation.

Melting Pot vs. Salad Bowl

Canadian cooking?

Cultural Diffusion and Ethnicity

Migration is what makes many “ethnic”

chain migration

channelized migration

return migration

Chain Migration (fig)

Ethnic Ecology

Cultural Preadaptation

Ethnic Environmental Perception


Doctrine of First Effective Settlement

Q: Where is the largest source of migrants to the California today?

A. Latin America

B. Europe

C. Asia

D. Africa

Ethnic Ecology (fig)

Ethnicity and Business Activity

Different groups have different levels of entrepreneurial spirit.

Some groups who remain poor are not necessarily lazy, but may not prioritize life toward business

Ethnicity and Business
or Morality? (fig)

Ethnicity and Type of Employment

Ethnicities often specialize in a handful of business practices.

Irish and __________

Chinese and __________

Koreans and ____________

Italians and _____________

Jews and ____________


Ethnicity and Employment (fig)

Ethnic Food Regions (fig)

Ethnicity and Disease (fig)

Ethnic Landscapes

There are a great variety of clues to the ethnicity (current or vestigal) of any location

Houses, cemetery markers, recreational amenities

Ethnic Settlement Patterns

The layout of towns and villages often recall an ethnic past or present

Germanic Landscape Values (fig)

German or Scots-Irish? (fig)

Urban Ethnic Landscapes

Some of the easiest places to see these items is in the city, but frequently you can be fooled because of the rapid ethnic turnover of cities.

Sal’s Pizzeria

Water Street

Color preferences

Urban Ethnic Landscapes (fig)

Hispanic Mural (fig)

We’re Proud of Our Heritage...

Please Spend lots of money in our quaint overpriced shoppes.

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