On ghettoes: medieval, modern,
and metaphorical

The first Conversations/Conversazioni of the calendar year of the American Academy in Rome was focused on ghettoes and on their historical and metaphorical meaning. The recent lecture features David Nirenberg, professor of Medieval History and Social Thought at the University of Chicago and the recently appointed American Academy in Rome director Avinoam Shalem, who speaks from the beautiful setting of the ancient ghetto in Venice.
The conversation, available online, confronts the idea of ghetto. “Ghetto” emerged as a word to describe a specific late-medieval phenomenon: the creation in Christian cities of segregated and walled neighborhoods in which Jews were required to live. Today its meanings are vaster, and it serves as a metaphor for many different types of containment and segregation. How did these urban spaces emerge? Why did they prove so useful as marginal spaces and a metaphor? And what work do the phenomenon and the metaphor do today?