Chinatowns as Global Laboratories: Lessons from Comparative Analysis

Professors Cindy Wong and Gary McDonogh

To close out this year’s IAS Speaker Series presentations, Professors Cindy Wong and Gary McDonogh shared their research of comparative studies of over 70 Chinatowns around the world. Focusing primarily on the Chinatowns in Paris, Lima, and San Francisco, the pair highlighted how such spaces can reveal many historic, current, and possible future interactions and conflicts involving Chinese immigrant populations. Whether it is the political and economic divisions that are evident between the ethnic Chinese and other Peruvians in Lima or postcolonial migration patterns of Chinese in Paris, there are many large themes that can be learned by studying each location. Perhaps even more interestingly, the four main themes the professors emphasized (space, place, and race; imaginaries of locations; conflicts; and emerging Chinatowns) interact within all Chinatowns in unique and different ways. It is these universal themes and simultaneous individuality that makes comparing Chinatowns so informative.