Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)


Community Planning


South Boston, Massachusetts is famous for its ethnic Irish population. From initial Irish emigration in the early 1800's, to the mass exodus during the potato famine in mid 1800's, the Irish have settled in South Boston. Initial immigrants to Boston were fleeing persecution from English land barons and hoped to find a better life in America. Yet, much of the early history of the enclave is underscored by the harsh treatment of the ruling Brahmin class. The Irish struggled to find jobs, housing and practice their Catholic faith within the confines of an elite Protestant majority. Slowly enclave residents broke through the obstacles and started to create a dynamic ethnic neighborhood. The enclave continued to change and used politics as a vehicle for advancement. Irish politicians and the 'ethnic vote' were critical in battling against movements of redevelopment and desegregation that threatened the homogeneity of enclave. The neighborhood is constantly changing, yet remains rooted in the socio-cultural norms of the Celtic customs. Traditions of Catholic faith, pub culture and a code of secrecy endure in the area and must be understood as part of the equation of ethnic enclave.

Ethnic enclave functions such as providing a sense of security, defense, social support, socio-economic assistance and cultural preservation are working processes of the enclave (Boal, 1976; Peach, 1996). Yet, in the literature these functions are static and categorized, rather applied within the context of historical, dynamic characteristics that change over time. The functions of the South Boston Irish enclave have changed to reflect socio-economic events that occurred during the past two hundred years. Functions are a reaction to the atmosphere in which the enclave evolves. Functions cannot be viewed as action separate from the history and culture of an enclave. Defense, avoidance, and attack are reactions to the negative atmosphere immigrants encountered and the need to advance in a dominant host community. Preservation and sociological functions are employed to ensure that the customs and culture are not lost during the evolution of enclave within the dominance of the host community. The Irish enclave of South Boston's functions are a reaction to the social history in which it evolved and the culture of its residents.



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