Karin Aguilar-San Juan “Staying Vietnamese: Community and Place in Orange County and Boston

Neighborhoods take on the cultural characteristics as their inhabitants. Place-making activities influence and shape the characteristics of neighborhoods. Karin Aguilar-San Juan focuses on these activities in two Vietnamese neighborhoods, one in Orange County California, the other in Fields Corner in Boston Massachusetts. The major difference between the two is that in Orange County there is a clear delineated location called Little Saigon representing the Vietnamese ethnic community, while in Fields Corner, the Vietnamese community overlaps with other enclave communities. Although the two communities appear to be very similar, Aguilar-San Juan presents marked differences, specifically population size, geographic distribution, and institutional completeness. The Orange County Vietnamese community has approximately seven times the population as Fields Corner, with the majority (75%) living in five adjacent cities, while the Vietnamese community in the Boston were scattered throughout the area among four non-adjacent neighborhoods.

Orange County, California historically has been an area indicative of suburban white privilege, that was developed deliberately as an area catering to for-profit enterprises, however, by the 1970s the demographics were changing as a result of an influx of Vietnamese refugees. Vietnamese shops, groceries and restaurants began to sprout roots in these areas. Through symbolization and territorialization, Little Saigon was formed. This area provides vigorous activity for the Vietnamese community so much so that Vietnamese living hundreds of miles away travel here for shopping and community.

The Vietnamese community in Fields Corner Boston began to form in 1975 when the Vietnamese refugees settled in the Chinatown Area of Boston. Eventually, high rent Forced Vietnamese into Fields Corner where their place-making activities made them the most powerful, albeit the smallest, immigrant group in the community. There the Vietnamese developed long term support systems, including affordable housing, jobs and child care services, that would ensure the survival snd success of the community. Their plans to develop a culturally-centric community have not proved successful as in Little Saigon, some initiatives that are thriving in Orange County, such as community centers and Vietnamese Soldier memorials, were not supported in Boston, preventing strong symbolization and territorialization of the Fields Corner Vietnamese community.

Regardless of the differences in their place-making activities, both communities have found a way to develop and grow among the American cities and “stay Vietnamese” in the process.

Edward LiPuma and Thomas Koelble “Cultures of Circulation and the Urban Imginary: Miami as Example and Exemplar

Miami’s proximity to  countries such as Cuba, Colombia, Haiti and Venezuela lends credence to the notion of LiPuma and Koelble that Miami is a post modern global city critical for the circulation of goods, people, services, and capital. The amount of people and goods that flow in and out of Miami is impressive. In any given month, about 3 million people, half of whom are classified as international travelers, enter and exit Miami. About 8 million tons of goods flow through the Port of Miami annually, making Miami a multiethnic, multicultural world city.

LiPuma and Koelble argue that a multi-cultural multi-ethnic city with international networks such as Miami has only become this exemplar city through urban imaginary, a narrative of the city’s contemporary and historical “story” that presents it as cohesive infrastructure. Miami politicians and the chamber of commerce would have one believe that Miami is a social totality, a stable, concrete city, rather than pluralities of multi-centric circulations. This imaginary identity has allowed Miami to grow as post modern global city.

Miami, an example of the postmodern city, is  pivotal for circulation of cultures via immigration, tourism, business travel, as well as vacationers and temporary residents. The authors state “Miami seems to function as an infrastructural platform for the flow of cultural forms through superimposed spatial planes that have literally no beginning or end.” In other words, Miami functions as a city of shifting identities with no definite governmental scale but rather scales defined more by the city’s interaction with multiple countries, primarily Latin and Caribbean countries. Miami is a web of unincorporated cities whereby each area functions in plurality rather than in totality. The authors argue that reasons for this are rather than shedding their home culture, immigrants and new residents retain their cultural identities and create a composite city made up of heterogeneous parts. Connectivity between each part of Miami is absent. Miami as a global city is more connected to external relationships with international cities, such as Mexico City, Havana and Bogota.

Richard Florida “Cities and the Creative Class”

Florida posits the idea of a creative capital thesis in which he believes creative and talented residents are key to contemporary urban growth and development. Florida argues that the cultural aspects of the city is a key factor in attracting a highly desirable creative workforce and that some cities attract larger proportions of the “creative class” than do others and he set out to find out why.

In contrast to Robert Putnam’s social capital theory, Florida found that contemporary communities tend to focus less on building strong community ties and residents were actually more content with weaker ties as these ties proved to be less invasive connections. These weaker ties allowed residents to maintain “quasi anonymity”.  A more contemporary theory,  the human capital theory of regional development, posits that the economic importance of a locale determines rate of growth, and you become economically important with highly educated and productive people working.  Florida asks why then are these highly educated productive people concentrated in certain places. Florida wants to know how do people decide where to locate. He produced the creative capital perspective.

In his research, Florida found that creative people do not just simply follow the jobs instead lifestyle considerations as well as economic considerations mattered in their decisions. The creative class prefers places that are innovative, diverse, and tolerant. He concludes that creative people are key to economic growth and found that there are underlying factors that shape their decision on where to locate.The creative class is drawn to certain areas based on specific criteria, which Florida termed as the “new geography of creativity”.

Richard Florida argues that cities should focus less on infrastructural attractions and focus more on becoming centers of cultural experiences. Rather than building sports and entertainment districts, Florida argues the focus should be on marketing their cities as diverse and creative communities.