Segregation

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Full Citation: Carl H. Nightingale, “Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities,” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.) ISBN Number: 0226580741, 9780226580746

Summary

In his book “Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities,” Carl H. Nightingale argues that the spread of urban segregation on the international level has been happening for more than 70 centuries. These interconnected movements towards segregation are each brought about through governmental policy, networks of intellectual exchange, and capitalist real estate markets, with the strength of each of the three forces of segregation varying depending on circumstances of time and place.

Throughout this extended period there have been five broad stages of segregation. The first stage arose with the first cities of the world when lines of class, caste, profession, gender, and especially religion were used to keep various undesirables away from the ruling sects of the world. The next stage of segregation began in the 1700’s, as the English colonial cities of Madras and Calcutta used race based segregation for the first time to create their “White Towns” and “Black Towns.” Segregation mania, the third stage, erupted around the globe from the 1890’s to the 1920’s as the bubonic plague, which began in Hong Kong, led to a renewed fervor of segregation with the justification of public health. Some of the most powerful elements of this mania came from the Progressive Era’s social reform programs, which Nightingale sees as wholly focused on segregation with the guise of uplift. Following this segregation mania came an era of archsegregationism from the 1920’s to the late 1940’s. This period led to the most radical legal, residential, and professional segregation the world has known, especially in places like Johannesburg, South African and Chicago, Illinois. The final stage of segregation came following the devastation of World War Two and is actually marked by a decline in formal legal segregation. The colonial powers were badly hurt by the war, leaving them unable to afford expensive colonial enterprises abroad, while the extreme ethnic clensing of the Nazi Party which resulted in the death of millions of Jews left the world unwilling to accept segregation’s ideologies. As a result new nations in Africa and Asia were developed, while legal segregation around the world was stricken from law books. However, this does not mean that segregation has ended. Instead Nightingale sees this period as a time when segregation policies have been forced underground, becoming more subtle and increasingly tied in to the real estate market.


Commentary

Lindsey Bestebreurtje, Fall 2012

One of the greatest strengths of this book is its scope in time and place. By looking at such a large period of time Nightingale challenges modern ideas about what segregation is and how it developed. One element of this is separating the idea of segregation from the idea of race. Nightingale shows how segregation was used as a tactic to keep various classes and religions apart before “race” was a category of division. By expanding ideas of segregation from ideas of race Nightingale shows how such diverse policies from making women wear separate garments to the Third Reich’s extermination of the Jews each count as segregation in their own ways.

Beyond stretching segregation past race, Nightingale also challenges our understanding of legal racial segregation. This is done by showing that governmental forces to divide the races happened long before the 1890’s when many scholars since Woodward have observed the formalization of segregation. This expanded outlook comes from looking at the global context of segregation.

A weakness of this book comes from its strength of covering such a broad time and place. Because of this huge scope Nightingale does not analyze the subtleties and intricacies of each area. For example, when discussing the development of China Town in San Francisco during the 1800’s Nightingale describes the city as split between only the Anglo-Saxon and Asian races, but in reality the area also had large Mexican, Spanish, and Native populations. (chapter 5) Despite this weakness I still found Nightingale’s work to be compelling, challenging, and an excellent asset to understanding the impact of segregation.

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