Wei Li (ed.): From Urban Enclave to Ethnic Suburb: New Asian Communities in Pacific Rim Countries. Honolulu 2006. 278 S.From Urban Enclave to Ethnic Suburb: New Asian Communities in Pacific Rim Countries offers an informative and up-to-date survey of the migration, settlement and adaptation processes of Asian (mainly ethnic Chinese) immigrants in eight metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to the wide geographical coverage, the book provides well-studied documentation and analyses of experiences of Asian immigrants with diverse backgrounds, ranging from old to young, poor to rich, who migrated to their new homelands in different capacities ranging from refugees to investor migrants. Edited by WEI LI, the book involves work by fifteen experienced scholars (predominantly geographers) in migration studies, who analyse their cases drawing upon relevant concepts and focus on issues most pertinent to the particular migration trajectories they investigate.
In the Introduction, WEI LI highlights the impact of the changing global economy, geopolitics and immigration policies in the four countries concerned. She then proceeds to describe various ethnic settlement forms ranging from ghetto, enclave and ethnoburb (pp. 11-17), which provides a useful foundation for the readers. LI's emphasis on the ethnoburb model in this section and her claim that the book focuses exclusively on the Asian communities in multiethnic suburbs (p. 18) is, however, somewhat misleading. Rather than a book tied together tightly and exclusively with the ethnoburb framework, contributions in the volume illustrate and analyse Asian settlements in downtowns and/or suburbs, reflecting the diverse geographical manifestations in Asian migration and settlement in the eight metropolitan areas.
Following the Introduction, our journey starts in the USA with WOOD's study (chapter 1) of the positive impact of Vietnamese immigrants in shaping the commercial landscape in suburban Washington D.C. in Northern Virginia. This is followed by SMITH and LOGAN's (chapter 2) intricate analysis of the dynamic demographic and political-economic changes in the multicultural, but increasingly Asian, New York City neighbourhood Flushing. The three subsequent chapters are set in California. Elaborating on her ethnoburb model, LI (chapter 3) documents the spatial, demographic and socio-economic transformations of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles, and demonstrates how the Chinese ethnoburb is both a global economic outpost and a complex urban ethnic mosaic. The contribution by LAUX and THIEME (chapter 4) adds flavour to the volume by providing a detailed analysis of the multiple Korean residential clusters in both downtown and suburban areas of Los Angeles. Drawing upon their survey, the authors examine the level of structural assimilation experienced by Korean immigrants. Chapter 5 by LI and PARK focuses on the relatively recent development of the Silicon Valley, with particular attention paid to the role of Asian Americans in the formation and growth of the high-tech region. Not only are these high-tech workers, professionals and entrepreneurs important actors in the booming economy, they are also increasingly active in local affairs, involving both electoral politics and education. This rise in visibility has, however, invited backlash by other ethnic groups. The two subsequent chapters proffer views on the Canadian experiences. LO (chapter 6) concerns the situation in the Greater Toronto area and provides a detailed description of the suburbanisation process of Chinese settlements. EDGINGTON, GOLDBERG and HUTTON (chapter 7) centre their study on the impact of the large-scale immigration and capital flow from Hong Kong into Vancouver over the past few decades. Both of these chapters demonstrate how immigrants from Hong Kong have brought with them business practices and lifestyles unconventional to their new societies, arousing tensions with longer-established residents in these gateway cities. The last two chapters take the readers to the southern hemisphere. DUNN and ROBERTS (chapter 8) provides a fine analysis of the making of the "Asian" neighbourhood in a Sydney suburb Cabramatta in Australia. This place-promoting project involves an array of actors including the city council, chamber of commerce and the Indo-Chinese and other local communities. Finally, the book ends with chapter 9 by HO and BEDFORD who present a detailed account of the
development of Chinese settlement Auckland, New Zealand, with focus set on the internal differences among Chinese immigrants from different geographical origins. In my opinion, a short concluding chapter that summaries the contributions, draws together major themes discussed and perhaps contemplates the future of the studied communities would provide a good roundup.
Each essay retraces the immigration history of the studied population and emphasises how the changes in immigration policies and the political economies in both the origins and destinations of the immigrants have accounted for the altering characteristics of these communities and their settlement processes. Reflected by the book title From Urban Enclave to Ethnic Suburb, the chapters share in their focus on the changing geographical manifestation of the studied immigrant communities. These communities display an array of settlement patterns from no identifiable residential cluster (the Vietnamese in suburban Washington D.C. in Northern Virginia), to multiple residential and business clusters in both inner city and suburbs (the Koreans in Los Angeles), to large-scale suburb residential and business concentration (the Chinese in San Gabriel Valley of the suburb Los Angeles).
As underlined by the editor, the contributors share in their effort in highlighting the active and dynamic processes of migration and settlement in our contemporary world, calling traditional notion of simplistic, uni-directional assimilation and acculturation into question. Different contributors convey, however, a variety of views regarding identities, adaptation and integration. While WOOD, and DUNN and ROBERTS highlight the performed nature of identity in the making of an ethnic landscape, other contributors consider identities rather as coherent and closed. Asian migrants are considered here mostly as holders of distinct culture and identities, inserting into a well-defined host society. Apparent examples include LI's observation that by "Keeping their identities and establishing distinctive communities, ethnoburben populations can nonetheless integrate into the host society through economic activities (p. 17)." LAUX and THIEME, for another example, conclude that the Koreans are having a long way to go in the process of integrating into the American society because of their strong ethnic resilience. In my opinion, more focused discussion of identities formation would be fascinating especially because the book is about migration experiences in four "classical" immigration countries, where national identities and concept of citizenship, much more so than in other societies, are constantly in negotiation. As we ponder the question of immigrant incorporation, it is important to ask the question what "host society" means? And who has, and should have the power to define the characteristics of the "American", or "Australian" etc., culture and identity?
Some of the chapters in the book (SMITH and LOGAN; LI and PARK; DUNN and ROBERTS; HO and BEDFORD) bring forth incidences of complex intercultural interactions and politics of identities and citizenship. These stories call for attention to the limit of economic success as a way to guarantee harmonious relationship in multicultural societies. These chapters echo WEI LI's concept of ethnoburb as multiethnic suburbs that are characterised by an extensive spatial form and an internally stratified socioeconomic structure, as open systems with interactions with the outside world, and involve both interracial and intraethnic class tensions (p. 74). While reading, I ponder the impact of, even only occasional, cooperative efforts among and between different ethnic communities in ethnoburbs (as illustrated by DUNN and ROBERTS). Adding more of such cases would, in my opinion, help bring forth the dynamic and diverse nature of inter-ethnic relations, which are embedded in complex webs of economic, political, social and cultural processes.
Contributors in this volume base their analyses on different types of data and methodologies. All chapters are grounded with essential demographic statistics about the communities studied. Some contributors use census data more intensively for their work, while others collect their data from phone interviews, face-to-face interviews and observation, or media analysis. The range of methods reflects the diverse approaches available in migration studies, providing a good show-case especially for students who are interested pursuing fieldwork-based research. In addition, all chapters are enriched by the appropriate use of maps, photographs, tables and charts.
No book can be inclusive in covering all interesting cases of Asian migrant communities. Including case studies about other new (and old) Asian communities beyond Chinese,
Indochinese and Korean immigrants would enrich the collection. Having said that, I consider this book as it is an important and timely contribution to the study of Asian migrant communities in the Pacific Rim. It is a valuable reference for geographers and social scientists in general, and a good resource for anyone who is interested in international migration, transnationalism, urban geography, Chinese diaspora and Asian American studies.
Autorin: Maggi Leung