Research Clusters & Initiatives

The Right to the Second City

In 2018, the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures launched a project, titled The Right to the Second City: The Immigrant Experience in Chicago, aimed at studying immigration from Eastern Europe to Chicago. This program, the first fruits of which composed the Chicago Quarter curriculum for 2019, was established to promote the creation of research projects utilizing Chicago’s many archives and rich resources to describe immigration; and, in the tradition of Chicago Studies and the Chicago School of Sociology, to encourage students to build their research through direct engagement with the city itself.

Our next step forward focuses on a vision from the project’s beginning—a website that would present students’ research as well as serve as a research platform for future projects to take form at the University and beyond. We hope to give students the opportunity to build a corpus of collective, interdisciplinary research. The site will include GIS elements mapping migration to and from various parts of the city, providing a spatial reference for primary and secondary images and documents. For instance, visitors will be able to zoom in on the Polish Triangle and encounter various points of community activity and interests (churches, taverns, settlement houses, businesses, factories, etc.), and be able to trace changes in neighborhoods spanning over 150 years ago. Other functions will allow visitors to begin with a student’s research project, an image, or with a data set. The site will become a place to honor work from other Chicago institutions by encouraging individuals to visit their websites and participate in UChicago’s project by contributing images, documents, and memories as well as comments and recommendations.

The project’s initiative realized through the 2019 Chicago Quarter program, which included three courses: “Where We Come From: Methods & Materials in the Study of Immigration” (Nickell), “Voices of Alterity & The Languages of Immigration” (Ilieva), and “Spaces of Hope: The City and its Immigrants” (Petkovic), has already provided instructional support. We hope to offer the program again, possibly as soon as 2020-2021. In the meantime, Ilieva’s course, “Strangers to Ourselves: Émigré Literature and Film,” will continue to be offered annually. William Nickell has been working closely with individual students to continue developing the projects begun in the CQ program. Angelina Ilieva and Nada Petkovic will also begin advising new research.