, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 63-74

Contesting Chinatown: Place-making and the Emergence of ‘Ethnoburbia’ in Brisbane, Australia

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Abstract

This paper juxtaposes the actual areas of settlement and settlement activities of Chinese migrants in Brisbane’s southern suburbs since the mid-1980s, with the concomitant, ‘government planned’ construction of the city’s Chinatown as an ‘exotic,’ ‘ethnic,’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ landmark. It argues that while the latter, as with Chinatowns in other Australian and world cities, has continued to appropriate the symbols of so-called ‘Chineseness’ to sell the locale to non-Chinese, the former, in recalling the notion of ‘ethnoburbia,’ significantly evinces actual Chinese migrants’ agency and role in place-making. In the process, these migrants have not only established a local, ethnically meaningful environment, but also challenged the still current metonymic Western image of the Chinese as preferring life in ‘ethnic’ urban enclaves that had its origin from early Chinese settlement and fundamentally detached from the lives of other ethnic groups per se. Indeed greater recognition and comprehension of such locales may go a long way to illustrate that many Chinese living in Australia today do not fit the territorial, place-based identity often associated with them in the imagination of mainstream society.