International Workshop 'Ethnic Neighbourhoods as Places of Leisure and Consumption location:Rabat, Morocco date:10-12 may 2007
There is a general consensus that the rapid development of immigrant entrepreneurship, especially in the commodification of ethnic-cultural symbols, has shaped urban landscapes, transforming them into ethnoscapes (Appadurai 1990) or ethnic precincts (Collins 2006) of leisure and consumption (Conforti 1996; Shaw, Bagwell and Karmowska 2004; Rath 2007: Taylor 2000). One of the most emblematic ethnic precincts is Chinatown. In this paper I will first provide a short description of the development of the two Chinatowns in Antwerp and Brussels. General Chinese migration flows to most Western European countries, and in particular to Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK (Pang 2003) in the two decades after WWII have produced a distinctive settlement pattern of dispersal instead of concentration. The first Chinese restaurantowners catered to the majority group, rather than the co-ethnic group. The scattered pattern of settlement was hardly conducive to the formation of Chinatown, be it a ghetto, ethnic enclave, ethnoburb or ethnoscape of consumption. Yet from the mid 1970s onwards some sort of clustering of Chinese small businesses, mostly restaurants and food stores, did take off both in Antwerp and Brussels. Some of these first vestiges have vanished, while others have remained. Three decades later Chinatown Antwerp and Brussels have become a familiar ethnoscape in both cities. Both sites will be discussed: the historical context, a general mapping of the current situation. Then the conditions for the commodification of ethnic precincts will be put forth alongside with critical notes on unintented side effects and the replicability of the Chinatown formula to other cultures.