Chinatown: The Socioeconomic Potential of An Urban Enclave

Synopsis

"In Chinatown, Min Zhou examines how an ethnic enclave works to direct its members into American society, while at the same time shielding them from it. Focusing specifically on New York's Chinatown, a community established more than a century ago, Zhou offers a thorough and modern treatment of the immigrant enclave as a socioeconomic system, distinct from, but intrinsically linked with, the larger society. It is difficult for Americans to understand the Chinese experience in Chinatown: while it is located in New York City and many other American cities, this exotic and even forbidding world is really many worlds away. Some view the immigrant enclave as a place where newcomers--naive, ignorant of labor rights, and with language barriers--are mercilessly exploited by fellow Chinese. Zhou's central theme is that Chinatown does not keep immigrant Chinese from assimilating into mainstream society, but instead provides an alternative means of incorporation into society that does not conflict with cultural distinctiveness. In his Foreword, Alejandro Portes observes that this "may exploit some but... gives others their only chance of someday launching their own enterprises."" "Concentrating on the past two decades, Zhou maintains that community networks and social capital are important resources for reaching socioeconomic goals and social position in the United States; in Chinatown, ethnic employers use family ties and ethnic resources to advance socially. Chinese employees have access to employment opportunities in Chinatown that they would otherwise lack because of language difficulties, mismatched skills, and undervalued educational credentials. Zhou demonstrates that for many immigrants, low-paid menial jobs provided by the enclave are expected as a part of the time-honored path to upward social mobility of the family. Relying on her family's networks in New York's Chinatown and her fluency in both Cantonese and Mandarin, the author, who was born in the People's Republic of China, makes extensive use of personal interviews to present a rich picture of the daily work life in the community." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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