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Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America

Wei Li
Copyright Date: 2009
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    Book Description:

    This innovative work provides a new model for the analysis of ethnic and racial settlement patterns in the United States and Canada. Ethnoburbs—suburban ethnic clusters of residential areas and business districts in large metropolitan areas—are multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, and often multinational communities in which one ethnic minority group has a significant concentration but does not necessarily constitute a majority. Wei Li documents the processes that have evolved with the spatial transformation of the Chinese American community of Los Angeles and that have converted the San Gabriel Valley into ethnoburbs in the latter half of the twentieth century, and she examines the opportunities and challenges that occurred as a result of these changes. Traditional ethnic and immigrant settlements customarily take the form of either ghettos or enclaves. Thus the majority of scholarly publications and mass media covering the San Gabriel Valley has described it as a Chinatown located in Los Angeles’ suburbs. Li offers a completely different approach to understanding and analyzing this fascinating place. By conducting interviews with residents, a comparative spatial examination of census data and other statistical sources, and fieldwork—coupled with her own holistic view of the area—Li gives readers an effective and fine-tuned socio-spatial analysis of the evolution of a new type of racially defined place. The San Gabriel Valley tells a unique story, but its evolution also speaks to those experiencing a similar type of ethnic and racial conurbation. In sum, Li sheds light on processes that are shaping other present (and future) ethnically and racially diverse communities. The concept of the ethnoburb has redefined the way geographers and other scholars think about ethnic space, place, and process. This book will contribute significantly to both theoretical and empirical studies of immigration by presenting a more intensive and thorough "take" on arguments about spatial and social processes in urban and suburban America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6241-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about the creation of a new ethnic landscape in North America and a new model of the contemporary urban ethnic community: the ethnoburb. Ethnoburbs have emerged under the influence of international geopolitical and global economic restructuring; changing national immigration and trade policies; local demographic, economic, and political contexts; and increasing transnational networks and connections. Suburban ethnic clusters of residential areas and business districts in large metropolitan areas, ethnoburbs are multiethnic communities in which one ethnic minority group has a significant concentration but does not necessarily constitute a majority. Such suburban clusters replicate some features of an ethnic...

  6. Part 1: Exploring the Ethnic Suburb

    • 1 Ethnicity and Space
      (pp. 11-28)

      The United States is a country largely composed of immigrants from all over the world and their descendants. For this reason, the study of race and ethnicity has a long history in this country. Scholars from many social science disciplines, particularly sociologists and anthropologists, have developed theories of race and ethnicity and conducted numerous empirical analyses of different ethnic groups. Although geographical studies of race and ethnicity have been less developed compared with other disciplines, a literature focused on the “geography of minority groups” began to develop in the 1970s and matured into the fields of ethnic geography and geography...

    • 2 Ethnoburb: An Alternative Ethnic Settlement
      (pp. 29-50)

      The stereotypical traditional American suburb is populated by white middle-class American families, composed of a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, and their children. A corollary of this is that racial and ethnic minorities are mostly concentrated in inner-city ghettos or ethnic enclaves. If minorities manage to achieve the American dream of suburbanizing, they were expected to be, and likely are, spatially dispersed and socioeconomically assimilated into the mainstream society.

      These conceptions belie reality because a new type of suburb, the ethnoburb, has emerged in recent decades, a product of international geopolitical and global economic restructuring; changing national immigration and trade...

  7. Part 2: The Los Angeles Chinese Ethnoburb

    • 3 Changing Chinese Settlement
      (pp. 53-78)

      One of the earliest immigrant groups to settle on the west coast of the United States, the Chinese, like other racial minority groups, were victims of racial discrimination and scapegoating during periods of economic hardship. They faced prejudice and violence, exclusion and deportation, and were forced to retreat to their own social and spatial world—inner-city Chinatowns. Their fate in this country can be seen to mirror changing global, national, and local circumstances. When the United States and China are allies, the Chinese in this country become a symbol of friendship between the two countries; when the two countries become...

    • 4 Building Ethnoburbia
      (pp. 79-99)

      The establishment of the Chinese ethnoburb as a new type of ethnic settlement in the San Gabriel Valley has occurred within a framework of global, national, and place-specific conditions. Without changing global geopolitical and economic contexts, and shifting national immigration policies, the ethnoburb phenomenon might never have emerged. It is also likely, however, that without certain locality-specific circumstances, such as demographic changes, local politics, and business dynamics, the ethnoburb would not have been established either, or at least not in its present manifestation. Place-specific conditions have led to subtle, variegated social constructions of race and expressions of racialization. Since its...

    • 5 From Ethnic Service Center to Global Economic Outpost
      (pp. 100-117)

      One of the most important forces behind the formation and evolution of an ethnoburb is the interdependence between the ethnic economy and the ethnic population. As the ethnic population and neighborhoods grow, they call for a larger ethnic economy to provide not only business opportunities and consumer necessities, but also job markets for immigrants. As the globally linked ethnic economy develops, it creates the need for both professional and managerial personnel as well as a low-skill, low-wage labor force. The combination in one location—the ethnoburb—of both an ethnic residential area and a business district is not only vital...

    • 6 Anatomy of an Ethnoburb
      (pp. 118-149)

      As a form of urban settlement, the ethnoburb has been forged from the interplay of economic globalization and political struggles between and within nation-states, major shifts in U.S. immigration policy, and a host of local circumstances and conditions. We have also seen that there are key actors involved in the ethnoburb development process, individuals who deliberately act to establish the foundations for ethnoburban community growth. What results is a distinctive and complex community, an urban mosaic.

      This chapter closely examines the rich variety of ethnoburban characteristics in order to integrate them into a theoretical explanation of ethnoburb formation and to...

    • 7 Portraits of Ethnoburban Chinese
      (pp. 150-168)

      Since 1990 many changes have occurred in the ethnoburb due to shifting immigration policy, the rising economies in some immigrant source countries, and the faster pace of globalization brought about by the establishment and expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As a result the ethnoburban demographic composition has become even more diverse among countries of origin (see Map 7). Socioeconomically, the status of Mainland Chinese residents has risen significantly, the result of both the rapid economic reforms in China and the Immigration Act of 1990, which favored employment-based...

  8. Part 3: Ethnoburbs of North America

    • 8 Opportunities and Challenges for Ethnoburbs
      (pp. 171-184)

      This book has examined the spatial transformation of LA’s Chinese community from downtown Chinatown to the San Gabriel Valley. It has proposed a model for this new suburban ethnic settlement—the ethnoburb—which has arisen as the result of changing global geopolitics and economic restructuring; national immigration and trade policies; and local demographic, economic, and political circumstances. It then operationalizes the ethnoburb framework by using secondary demographic and economic data, surveys, and interviews to trace the historical evolution of Chinese settlement; analyzes the formation and manifestation of the San Gabriel Valley ethnoburb; and profiles the demography, socioeconomic features, and microgeography...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 185-192)
  10. References
    (pp. 193-208)
  11. Index
    (pp. 209-214)