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Staying Italian

Urban Change and Ethnic Life in Postwar Toronto and Philadelphia

Despite their twin positions as two of North America’s most iconic Italian neighborhoods, South Philly and Toronto’s Little Italy have functioned in dramatically different ways since World War II. Inviting readers into the churches, homes, and businesses at the heart of these communities, Staying Italian reveals that daily experience in each enclave created two distinct, yet still Italian, ethnicities.

As Philadelphia struggled with deindustrialization, Jordan Stanger-Ross shows, Italian ethnicity in South Philly remained closely linked with preserving turf and marking boundaries. Toronto’s thriving Little Italy, on the other hand, drew Italians together from across the wider region. These distinctive ethnic enclaves, Stanger-Ross argues, were shaped by each city’s response to suburbanization, segregation, and economic restructuring. By situating malleable ethnic bonds in the context of political economy and racial dynamics, he offers a fresh perspective on the potential of local environments to shape individual identities and social experience.

208 pages | 20 halftones, 19 line drawings, 14 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Historical Studies of Urban America

Geography: Urban Geography

History: Urban History

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Social History


“This rich comparative study takes us deep into the lived worlds of Italian neighborhoods in Toronto and South Philadelphia in the twentieth century. Stanger-Ross’s comparative approach illuminates in a fresh and distinctive way the interplay of Catholicism, ethnicity, and urban space in the experience of Italian immigrants and their descendants. Complicating the usual story of the passing of Italian neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s, Stanger-Ross gives us instead a dynamic and textured social history of transformation and endurance. Staying Italian is a fine work of urban and religious history.”

Robert A. Orsi. Northwestern University

"Staying Italian is both sweeping in its comparative approach and fine-grained in its attention to demography and urban geography. Jordan Stanger-Ross offers a fresh approach to exploring the relationship of ethnic identity to urban space and institutions. Urban and immigration historians will learn a lot from this fine book.”

Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

“In Staying Italian, Stanger-Ross peels back the smooth surface of assimilation to reveal the complex, multiple trajectories it has papered over. His expedition of rediscovery identifies durable layers of ethnicity and explains how they can vary so markedly by urban location. His is a powerful story that alters a taken-for-granted narrative of intergenerational integration.”

Richard Alba, University at Albany, State University of New York

“This lucid and original study of the postwar Italian enclaves in Toronto and Philadelphia confirms the importance of space and place in the making and maintenance of such communities. The way in which Jordan Stanger-Ross pairs these two cases is particularly well-conceived, allowing him to illuminate the recent urban historical experience of ethnicity in both Canada and the United States.”

Richard Harris, McMaster University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1 Cities Apart: Toronto and Philadelphia after World War II

Italian Markets: Real Estate Exchange and Ethnic Community

3 Invitations and Boundaries: Patterns of Religious Participation

4 Courtship, Marriage, and the Geography of Intimacy

5 Breaking the Mold: Work and Postwar Ethnicity


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