Brianna Cheng
BA History and Political Science
BLUE Fellow
|
Winter
2021
Exploring the purpose and resilience of Montreal's Chinatown for Asian communities
BLUE Fellow
Winter
2021

Background

I am currently in my last year of a Joint Honours History and Political Science B.A. at McGill. Throughout my degree, I have been passionate about Asian North American history and its intersections with broader histories of race, immigration, gender, labour, and colonialism. At Building 21, I will explore Montreal's Chinatown, a relatively under-studied community in the field of North American Chinatowns. Specifically, I seek to understand what purposes Chinatown serves for its residents and more broadly, for Asian-identified folks in the city at large. Today, Chinatown is "contained" between René Lévesque, Viger, St Urbain, and St Dominique. Instead of limiting my project to these boundaries, I hope to map Chinatown beyond its supposedly finite borders, including zones that were once part of Chinatown but bulldozed for development projects, prominent areas of Asian activism, and transnational regions where community members maintain ties to. My project is especially urgent considering how COVID-19 has spurred waves of anti-Asian racism and a sudden drop in visitors for independent businesses in Chinatown. Yet these developments are not new—Chinatown has long been threatened by nativism, gentrification, and displacement. My project will be attuned to these issues and their significance for community members, but I reject the notion that the best possibility for Chinatown is one of survival. Rather, my project will envision a radical Chinatown that serves current and future Chinese and Asian generations in Montreal.

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