The choreography of community: Italian ethnicity in postwar Toronto and Philadelphia

Jordan Stanger-Ross, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores Italian neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Toronto, tracing the responses of ethnic enclaves to postwar urban change. The two cities are chosen for the very different settings they provided for postwar Italian life. In South Philadelphia, the proximity of a large African American neighborhood and the specter of urban decline framed postwar Italian ethnicity. In Toronto, by contrast, postwar Italian ethnicity took shape in the midst of prosperity and in a context where no large urban group bore the social and economic prejudice directed against African Americans in Philadelphia. I use information compiled from a range of documentary sources, institutional records, oral histories, and ethnic and local newspapers to describe the reverberations of wider urban dynamics in the social and spatial configuration of Italian community. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis accompanies other forms of interpretation to depict the diverging patterns of ethnic ties within the real estate market, church and social associational life, networks of dating and marriage, and work. I argue that Italian South Philadelphians used ethnicity to police the boundaries of a socially and economically divided city. In Toronto, where political, economic, and demographic patterns yielded a different context, Italian social bonds took a contrasting spatial form, spreading widely across the urban landscape. Italian ethnicity in Toronto operated on a metropolitan scale while in Philadelphia it marked local territory. My dissertation details the development of these very different forms of Italian ethnicity, illuminating the interwoven effects of politics, economy, and race in the choreography of daily life.

Subject Area

History|American history|Canadian history

Recommended Citation

Stanger-Ross, Jordan, "The choreography of community: Italian ethnicity in postwar Toronto and Philadelphia" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3179800.