Breaking the Mold: Work and Postwar Ethnicity

in Staying Italian

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780226770741
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226770765 | DOI:
Breaking the Mold: Work and Postwar Ethnicity

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The construction industry emerged as the largest and most important labor niche for Italians in Toronto after World War II. As the city rapidly expanded, new buildings were erected, giving rise to demanding and dangerous construction jobs. Italian ethnics dominated jobs in certain construction trades, such as lathing and dry walling. Ethnic workers navigated both informal social relations and formal contracts that overlapped in the construction industry. The elasticity of Italian social ties in Toronto was a perfect complement to the demands of the construction trades. The situation was different in Italian South Philadelphia, where the use of ethnic social networks to negotiate labor markets waned in the decades after World War II. Italians maintained their insular neighborhood in South Philadelphia, but increasingly broke free of Italian bonds when they sought work. This means that work and social life became increasingly dissociated in Italian South Philadelphia, in contrast to Toronto where ethnic labor niches persisted. As a result, Italian ethnicity in the two neighborhoods grew increasingly apart.

Keywords: ethnicity; Italians; Toronto; Little Italy; South Philadelphia; construction industry; social relations; work; social life; labor markets

Chapter.  8385 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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