NEGOTIATING DIVERSIFICATION: IMMIGRANT SETTLEMENT AND NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGE—THE CASE OF GREEKTOWN IN BALTIMORE CITY, MARYLAND
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Creating and maintaining diverse neighborhoods has been a challenge for planners, policymakers, and community organizers as the recent and rapid influx of immigrants from Latin and Asian countries into the United States generates many diversified neighborhoods throughout the country. This phenomenon has created new social dynamics in the neighborhoods due to the differences among new and longtime residents, such as ethnicity, language and culture, socioeconomic status, generation, and family type. The neighborhoods stand on the diverging point of whether the neighborhood stays diverse or one group takes over the place. This dissertation illustrates the situation in Greektown, Baltimore City, in Maryland, which has been seeing an influx of Latino immigrants as well as new, young professional residents in the last decade. This small neighborhood was once a Greek immigrant enclave and still maintains some original ethnic characteristics on the surface, yet it is becoming drastically more diverse. In this neighborhood, the three ethnically, socioeconomically, and generationally different groups—old timers who are mostly Greeks, Latino immigrants, and new residents who are in a higher socio-economic status than the others—are negotiating with each other on various occasions in various ways, which is leading the neighborhood in a certain direction. Interviews with the residents and community leaders, a survey, and more than two years of participant observation were conducted to examine their relationships and possible outcomes. The results of this research show that although they live side by side in a small neighborhood, none of the groups has much social interaction with the others in the neighborhood. Despite the little interaction, however, the neighborhood maintains its diversity without major conflicts, and many seem to accept, and some even embrace, the diversity. The study finds there are positive “symbolic relationships” that are built upon perceptions and images in people’s minds that derive from their previous experiences, their cultural heritage, and their self-identification. The symbolic relationships can be the foundation of a diverse and collaborative neighborhood. The study also finds that due to the diversity within each group, such as subsequent, US-born generations among the immigrants and racial minorities among the new residents generate various ties across each group’s boundary. This dissertation argues that in the contemporary diverse neighborhoods where residents’ interactions are becoming more selective, cultivating symbolic relationships and utilizing those multidimensional ties can be effective to create more collaborative yet diverse neighborhoods.