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Ethnic enclaves

Soooo, to round out my Chinese Culture Trilogy:
My dad also started this little tirade about how ethnic enclaves such as the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Washington, DC were detrimental to a cultural assimilation he saw as both inevitable and necessary. "No one resists it as we Chinese do," he remarked.

"What about Little Italy?" I objected. "Little Tokyo? Little India?"
(The Irish enclaves of Boston and the Russian communities in Chicago, for that matter?)

"Those are different," he mused, but didn't say why.

:blink:
What do you all think?

--
Banazîr

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
banazir
Apr. 13th, 2004 09:20 am (UTC)
My own $0.02
I don't think ethnic enclaves are a bad thing.

But then, I live on Concilium Orb half the yeat, which is prolly a source of annozzlement to some of my fellow Merkians, if not the parentals themelves.

I think what my dad was railing at was the "hard, indissoluble nodules" of (old country) nationalism as opposed to maintaining national identity, which I at least see as a good thing. As you may have gathered, my dad is by turns glad and proud to be Chinese and disgusted with some of the traditionalist mentalities.

It's a love hate relationship, Dad. Our countrymen would never hurt us! They're our friends. You don't have any friends...

Ohhh, I'm going to the special hell...

--
Banazir
f00dave
Apr. 13th, 2004 04:50 am (UTC)
I think your father is exhibiting cultrocentricism; a fairly typical behaviour....
banazir
Apr. 13th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC)
Culturocentrism
I think your father is exhibiting cultrocentricism; a fairly typical behaviour....
Possibly, if that's the cultural analogue of ethnocentrism.
But what culture are we talking about?
Zeroth-generation immigrants?

I mean, we all have our culturocentric notions. I, for example, am an ABC, and I not only see a lot of racism that zeroth-generation immigrants take for granted, I also tend to reject the idea of "it's because your skin tone has a different dominant wavelength" or whatever. OTOH, I have hangups about that selfsame racism (to wit: I'm embarrassed by it being brought up and nodded at by aunts and uncles).

My folks are relatively good about this, but it's a mutual education process in my immediate family.

--
Banazir
yodge
Apr. 13th, 2004 07:22 am (UTC)
Everyone resists. It's just maybe more bovious with the chonese because there are a lont of us running around. And the irish and italians blend in when they go to the supermarket. And the indians have M Night Shyamalan. and perhaps the japanese have a WW2 i'm-an-american thing to prove.

*ducks and runs*

-yoj
banazir
Apr. 14th, 2004 11:58 am (UTC)
Quite so, quite so, and quite so
Hi, Yoj. Good p6ints all.

Everyone resists.
It's just maybe more bovious with the chonese because there are a lont of us running around.

Yeeeees, buuuut...
With us Chonese you laso have a greater resistance to assimilate leceive puonahnsiashan. The more atrocious Engrish accents I've heard are Chonese, with the exception of a few non-American Japanese - though I've heard some real doozies among Indian students of late.

And the irish and italians blend in when they go to the supermarket.
It's not just that.
They blend in when speaking, and in their manner of dress (up until 5-6 years ago I could easily spot mainland Chinese students and distinguish them from Taiwanese students by their drabber colors of clothing).

And the indians have M Night Shyamalan.
"M. Night Shyamalan is the Jesus of Indian assimilation"?

and perhaps the japanese have a WW2 i'm-an-american thing to prove.
Perhaps some of them do.
I've seen the opposite effect, too. ("I'm Japanese", not "I'm not an American".)

--
Banazir
scionofgrace
Apr. 13th, 2004 09:39 am (UTC)
See, now, my grandpa once insisted that we should work against the dissolution of Mennonite communities and stick with our own people, but then Uncle Hugh asked him what sort of church he went to and he reluctantly admitted, "Baptist."

Enclaves may have varying degrees of seperateness, but they're all, in the end, much the same.
banazir
Apr. 14th, 2004 12:09 pm (UTC)
Degrees of separateness
See, now, my grandpa once insisted that we should work against the dissolution of Mennonite communities and stick with our own people, but then Uncle Hugh asked him what sort of church he went to and he reluctantly admitted, "Baptist."

LOL! There's hope yet, Dimond.

Enclaves may have varying degrees of seperateness, but they're all, in the end, much the same.

Ah, now there's the rub, you see.
Upon reflection, I think that was the point my dad was making: that certain aspects of resistance are more marked, and somewhat repellent to the "host country". Examples include: street signs exclusively in one language; traditional zoning and city planning as opposed to architecture; even ambient interior decor, display of magazines1, and technology.

I can't say I mind the Latino look of some Floridian, Texan, and Californian towns or even the "jeepney" look of Asiantown USA. The smaller, taller, boxier vehicles will make you do a double take the first time, though - especially if you are a Hobbit of Unusual Size as I am.

1 Those of you who've been to a large Asian grocery of late, and seen softcore skin magazines within easy reach of sproglets, will know what I'm referring to. Or maybe I'm just a prudish Merkian. :-P

--
Banazir
spoothbrush
Apr. 13th, 2004 10:33 am (UTC)
I do think that Chinatowns can be different, or rather that ethnic enclaves in general can be different, based on just things like "how hard are they to enter?" and "how hard are they to leave?" If I don't speak the language but I can walk into a Little Italy or a Chinatown or some such and order food, shop in a store, and ask for directions, then even if I don't recognize everything that's being sold in the shops and even if I'm overhearing conversations in a language I don't understand: and if someone who lives in the enclave can come to the supermarket or come downtown and be able to get lunch, do some shopping, and get directions back to the bus station or whatever, it's not deeply, problematically resistant. If the kids aren't being schooled in whatever the dominant language of the surrounding culture is, that's kind of problematically resistant. I'm also not sure if "assimilation" is completely the correct word for what happens: it kind of implies that the surrounding culture isn't changed by the people who enter.
banazir
Apr. 14th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC)
Ethnic dominance display
I do think that Chinatowns can be different, or rather that ethnic enclaves in general can be different, based on just things like "how hard are they to enter?" and "how hard are they to leave?"

There you go - my dad's pet peeve is the mixed left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and right-to-left orthography of Chinese sign lettering. This happens even in Chinese newspapers. He sees it as a cultural apathy, a deliberately obstreperous behavior meant to put the foreign reader off. "Heck, it puts me off," he says whenever we get on the subject of tourism or advertising.

I think, also, that it could be a type of dominance display.
"You will read it however the hell we like, because you're in our world now." (Oops, please don't sue me, Sony/Everquest.)

If I don't speak the language but I can walk into a Little Italy or a Chinatown or some such and order food, shop in a store, and ask for directions, then even if I don't recognize everything that's being sold in the shops and even if I'm overhearing conversations in a language I don't understand: and if someone who lives in the enclave can come to the supermarket or come downtown and be able to get lunch, do some shopping, and get directions back to the bus station or whatever, it's not deeply, problematically resistant.

No, it wouldn't be in that case; but can you?
I know I wouldn't have trouble in most European enclaves, but even I (a "first-generation" American-born Chinese person) feel more uncomfortable than enthused and curious in Asiantown USA. It's odd, because I feel relatively at ease in Taipei itself, even when unescorted by local family members.

The last few cases of this for me were in Washington, DC (2003), Edmonton, Alberta (2002), and Seattle, WA (2001). I think it's partly my own acclimatization to small midwestern towns and cities, but it doesn't explain Taipei. It might also be that I still think of myself as a kid on holiday with his parents when I am there (my 4 visits were when I was aged 10 months, 10 years, 15 years, and 19 years).

I'm also not sure if "assimilation" is completely the correct word for what happens: it kind of implies that the surrounding culture isn't changed by the people who enter.

Indeed not, and thank you for pointing this out.
I'm open to suggestions on terms.
Integration might be a better one.

--
Banazir
tamf
Apr. 13th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC)
just my opinioin, i'm not a scholar but i wish i were, etc...
personally, i love cultural islands. it means you can save money and time by visiting another country in your own hometown, yeah!

chonese enclaves do seem particularly persistent, which may be what your father means. those other ghettos tend to dissolve, or at least become toned down, after only a few generations. chinatowns tend to stay around for ages - and you can find them in just about every metropole, from yokohama to birmingham! oh, and there are chinese people in india who came there 300 years ago and still haven't assimilated - although their food is decidedly more spicy than it originally was.

the worst thing that can happen if you stay apart from the main populace for so long is (mutual) xenophobia. but, i guess, if you take a lot of pride in your heritage, it's worth it.
banazir
Apr. 13th, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)
Tamf's opinions are legal tender in these here parts
personally, i love cultural islands. it means you can save money and time by visiting another country in your own hometown, yeah!

As a citizen of GondorTM and frequent visitor to Minas Epcot, I agreen.

chonese enclaves do seem particularly persistent, which may be what your father means. those other ghettos tend to dissolve, or at least become toned down, after only a few generations. chinatowns tend to stay around for ages...

That's exacterly wot he meant.
I think he's sikritly a Borg.

you can find them in just about every metropole, from yokohama to birmingham!

Oo, I wanna see the Chinatown of Yokohama!

Acksherly, I wanna see the Chinatown of Lille Tokyo! (If they nest, are they meta-Russian?)

And (you know I had to ask): Birmingham, Engerland or Birmingham, Alabama?

oh, and there are chinese people in india who came there 300 years ago and still haven't assimilated - although their food is decidedly more spicy than it originally was.

One day at a time... how does the Swahili saying go?
haba na haba hajasa kibaba
(little by little fills the kibaba gourd)

the worst thing that can happen if you stay apart from the main populace for so long is (mutual) xenophobia. but, i guess, if you take a lot of pride in your heritage, it's worth it.

Once again the saying "Every culture gets the magic it deserves" finds its target.

--
Banazir
koinonia
Apr. 14th, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
I don't think it's different at all. Maybe it just seems different to your father, because he's not Irish, or Italian.

The Cuban community down here in Orlando considers itself 'assimilated' and yet it preserves a strong cultural and political identity that is very distinct from the other communities in Orlando.
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2004 01:15 am (UTC)
Vive la Difference
I don't think it's different at all. Maybe it just seems different to your father, because he's not Irish, or Italian.

Well, it's as I wrote to yodge, scionofgrace, and spoothbrush - it is a matter of degree. To wit: relatively more conservative (in the sense of change-resisting) communities tend to have more "hard, indissoluble nodules", and they tend to be less open and friendly to "foreigners" in that sense. IMHO, those types of enclaves are not necessarily any more successful at influencing their surrounding host culture.

The Cuban community down here in Orlando considers itself 'assimilated' and yet it preserves a strong cultural and political identity that is very distinct from the other communities in Orlando.

Well, yes, but I don't think it's how flexible you call yourself; rather, it's how flexible you are. Chinese enclaves neither profess nor really tend to seek integration. Neither do Irish or Italian communities, to be sure, but as yodge pointed out, the individuals do, and more often.

--
Banazir
(Deleted comment)
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2004 01:49 am (UTC)
Hail and well met!
Hi! I just stumbled across your journal and I found this discussion interesting.

Greetings and welcome!
I see you added me, and have returned the favor.

I'm reading Hans Kung's book Judaism which is an exhaustive history of the Jewish people. He talked about the ways in which Jews were forced into ghettos at various times in history, but also they ways in which they actively resisted any attempts to assimilate as a way of declaring their difference, preserving their identity. This was both life-saving in someways but also correlated to an increase in both anti-Judaism and antiSemitism.

... the latter of which are wrong, even when practiced by "oneself" against one's compatriots or self.

It's impossible to say that ghettos are inherently bad or good. They are both. And their meaning and influence for the larger subculture and larger culture changes as the cultural contexts change as well...

Both, or neither. Yes.

Thanks for your thoughtful points.

--
Banazir
masteralida
Apr. 14th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
Interesting thread. . . not that I grew up in Little Italy (though I would have loved to), but I still grew up in an area that was predominantly Italian. My father, however, married a redheaded little Irish/Czech girl. It took me years to understand that there wasn't something wrong with my mother, that people were indeed allowed to not be Italian and it was okay ;)

Have you been able to get your father to explain why Little Italy and Little Tokyo are somehow different than Chinatown?
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2004 02:17 am (UTC)
Vive la Difference encore
Interesting thread. . . not that I grew up in Little Italy (though I would have loved to), but I still grew up in an area that was predominantly Italian. My father, however, married a redheaded little Irish/Czech girl. It took me years to understand that there wasn't something wrong with my mother, that people were indeed allowed to not be Italian and it was okay ;)

lol, just so. My cousin Connie was the first in our immediate family to marry a non-Chinese American, who is Irish/Italian as it happens, and I think the years are just beginning (no sproglets as yet to learn that "nothing's wrong" as you say ;-)).

Have you been able to get your father to explain why Little Italy and Little Tokyo are somehow different than Chinatown?

Well, see my reply to spoothbrush - that typifies the difference my dad is referring to, though it's a little unfair to make it be about language when some of the ethnicities are English- speaking (including ESL).

--
Banazir
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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