From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
is an area where people from a specific racial or ethnic background live as a group in seclusion
, voluntarily or involuntarily. The word was originally used to refer to the Venetian Ghetto
, where Jews
were required to live. The corresponding German
term was Judengasse
. In Moroccan Arabic
, ghettos were called mellah
. The term came into widespread use during World War II
to refer to Nazi ghettos.
The term is now commonly used to refer to any poverty-stricken urban area. In the U.S., "rural ghetto" is used to describe mobile home parks, farm labor housing tracts, and Indian reservations. Urban neighborhoods where Hispanic immigrants settled in the late 20th century (called barrios) are said to be comparable to ghettos, because most immigrants form a culturally isolated enclave and may choose to remain there or associate with their own group.
"Ghetto" is also used figuratively to indicate geographic areas with a concentration of any type of person (e.g. gay ghetto, student ghetto) or for non-geographic categories (e.g. "sci fi ghetto").