Stir-Fry Urbanism: Geography of Chinese Restaurants and the Spatial Politics of Race and Iden-tity in Boston’s Urban Development 1880 – 2020
Mei , Ran
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CitationMei , Ran. 2022. Stir-Fry Urbanism: Geography of Chinese Restaurants and the Spatial Politics of Race and Iden-tity in Boston’s Urban Development 1880 – 2020. Master's thesis, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
AbstractIf you think of McDonald's as the icon of American food, America might taste more like General Tso Chicken than a Cheeseburger. There are currently over 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., more than all the McDonald's, KFC, Wendy's, and Taco Bells combined. However, the Chinese comprise less than 1.6% of the total U.S. population despite being present in this country as early as the 1850s. So what explains the ubiquity and popularity of Chinese foods despite the marginal size of the Chinese population in the U.S.? I examine the changing geography of Chinese restau-rants in Boston from 1880 to 2020 because they are the quintessential example of how diasporic identity is expressed, produced, and transformed in the built environment through constant negotia-tions and interactions across the color line. Using data from U.S. Census, Boston City Directory, and Yellow Pages, I map the changing geography of Chinese restaurants in Boston for the past 140 years to show that Chinese restaurants have not only functioned as essential means of econom-ic survival but also key spaces of cultural production and political mobilization that enabled the Chinese diaspora to negotiate their belonging and carve out spaces of living and livelihood in Bos-ton which in turn shaped the city into the multiethnic and multicultural metropolis that we know today.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37372353