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The study of Chinatown as an urban artifice and its impact on the Chinese community in London

Chung, S.S.-Y.; (2008) The study of Chinatown as an urban artifice and its impact on the Chinese community in London. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Sociologists claim that the ethnic Chinese community in the United Kingdom cannot be spatially defined. The first reason is that the widely scattered Chinese catering businesses-still the main source of employment for incoming Chinese migrants - makes the Chinese community too dispersed to form residential enclaves. Secondly, the evasive nature of the ethnic Chinese population towards government assistance and strong sense of ethnic solidarity also makes them an "invisible community". The Confucian philosophy governing their way of life further reinforces patrilineal links oriented towards ancestral villages in China. Recent renewed interests in the future of London's Chinatown as the result of a recent development plan has prompted this report to investigate whether a spatial pattern of occupation by the Chinese community exists in Chinatown, or if it is simply an intelligent urban artifice exploited for touristic and commercial purposes. Unlike its historical East End predecessor which has never been exclusively Chinese, present day London Chinatown can be qualified as a "persistent enclave". Whilst it crucially accommodates co-ethnic businesses and facilities for the oriental population, it is not the sole centre for the Chinese community. At the outset, studies on the Chinese have been confounded by their lack of assimilation into host society, inconsistent methods of data representation from the population census and high levels of suspicion by the immigrant community when conducting fieldwork. By first understanding historical developments in London's two Chinatowns and concepts pertaining to Chinese ethnography, this helps substantiate the demographic data, changing land use and household occupation by the Chinese community in Limehouse around 1890 and Soho today. The global and local relationship for these two areas are also analysed syntactically through spatial maps derived from Booth's Map of Poverty of 1889 and a current axial map of London respectively. The spatially-oriented case study of Soho's Chinatown identifies through a public survey a collective mental representation of its neighbourhood area that differs from its administrative designation. Pedestrian movement studies suggest that there is a distinct spatial and temporal pattern of occupation amongst the ethnic Chinese which differs from non-Chinese tourists and locals which can be syntactically measured. The findings support the view that a complex social and spatial relationship exists between the two disparate groups that utilise Chinatown. Whilst its commercial success is crucial to maintaining Chinatown's public profile, it also allows it to continue to function as an important centre for the Chinese community.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: The study of Chinatown as an urban artifice and its impact on the Chinese community in London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Approved for UCL Eprints by Dr. L. Vaughan, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies
Keywords: Chinatown, community, ethnicity, social assimilation, spatial segregation
UCL classification: ?? BG ??
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/14192
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