fieldnotes on chinatown


From the romanticization of Lost in Translation to the horror of The Trial or the struggle of asylum-seeking refugees, fiction and history alike bear no shortage of ventures into alien terrain. Immigrants, expatriates, and refugees may individually bear narratives of hope, fear, a romanticized search for a new life, but it is the cultural overtones and habits that guide their larger communities through adaptation and transformation. With rapid advances in telecommunication and transportation, global diasporas increasingly challenge our old conventions of normalcy and alien-ness, and from this friction sprout new conditions of urban life.

As cities shed their cultural origins - some more willingly than others - and adapt to the new paradigm of the globalized world, alien textures supplant and re-appropriate urban context. New characteristics emerge, translated (sometimes mistranslated) licentiously, producing a wholly new expression. From Chinatown, Paris to Chinatown, New York; from American ethnoburbs to Italian garment cities; these urban mistranslations of cultural diaspora simultaneously draw from both their distant homeland and their immediate, foreign surroundings. They belong neither here nor there, producing a third expression, alien to both.

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