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Visit Chinatown but leave your stereotypes at the doorSept. 1 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Arguing that public perception of a group is ultimately subjective, Jan Lin (associate professor of sociology, Occidental College, Los Angeles) puts forth his research that how Chinatown is perceived rests largely on a westernized construct of what is 'good'.
Using qualitative and quantitative research methodology he paints a much more empathetic and complex picture of New York City's Chinatown. Lin notes the groups inside these ethnic enclaves are not homogenous and have their own disagreements with each other over what direction is best for the community to follow.
Including the information about intra-community transformation actions is important because 'white' society tended to portray Chinatowns as monolithic entities whose members intrinsically agree with one another. While such blanket stereotyping was prevalent in the past, it still continues because this work itself would not be as consciousness-raising as it is if society acknowledged this community's complexity.
Lin examined New York's Chinatown, but his research is broadly applicable to any part of the country with Chinatown (or Asian) enclaves. The founders of NYC's Chinatown (and others across America) inadvertently pioneered urban redevelopment when they settled into properties which society had cast off.
Increasingly Chinatown residents are entering and impacting American politics. Voter registrar offices are now having to provide registration and election materials in these languages. In addition to being courted by politicians, the Chinatown residents are also becoming politicians themselves.
Ultimately finding his research intersecting with many facets of my own work, I recommend Lin's book for people interested in Asian American studies. It is also a good read for people undertaking community development work with Asian American communities.