Contesting Everyday (Food) Heritage in London’s Chinatown

Ma, X. 2024. Contesting Everyday (Food) Heritage in London’s Chinatown. in: Wang, C. and Lamb, T. (ed.) Negotiating Identities, Language and Migration in Global London: Bridging Borders, Creating Spaces Bristol Multilingual Matters.

Chapter titleContesting Everyday (Food) Heritage in London’s Chinatown
AuthorsMa, X.
EditorsWang, C. and Lamb, T.
Abstract

Research on London’s Chinatown as a lived and meaningful space often focuses only on self-identified Chinese people or their activities, which risks overlooking non-Chinese actors and the interactions between people and things in the social production of Chinatown. Informed by the notion of ‘everyday heritage’ (Mosler, 2019), this chapter investigates London’s Chinatown as a ‘lived everyday heritage space’ for London’s residents beyond the simplistic dichotomies of ‘Chinese’ and ‘non-Chinese’, ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘inauthenticity’. Through ethnographically researching how food business operators and visitors from diverse backgrounds use and symbolically experience London’s Chinatown, this chapter shows that Chinatown is associated with diverse experiences, contested meanings, and conflicting views that cannot be contained within the imagined ethnic and cultural confines. Londoners actively create everyday heritage and authenticate their lived experiences through ongoing sensory, bodily, and emotional interactions with the material surface of Chinatown. These authentic lived experiences may be in concordance with, in opposition to, or without reference to the branded or popularised identity ascribed to the place, which emphasises fixed ethnic and cultural differences. This chapter argues that viewing London’s Chinatown as a ‘lived everyday heritage space’ reveals the anti-essentialist, decentred, plural and multi-layered narratives about Chinatown, which make it possible to acknowledge the cultural complexities of this contested central London neighbourhood.

KeywordsChinatown
London
Everyday heritage
Authentication
Book titleNegotiating Identities, Language and Migration in Global London: Bridging Borders, Creating Spaces
Year2024
PublisherMultilingual Matters
Publication dates
Published16 Jan 2024
Place of publicationBristol
EditionFirst
SeriesEncounters
ISBN9781788927758
Web address (URL)https://www.multilingual-matters.com/page/detail/Negotiating-Identities-Language-and-Migration-in-Global-London/?k=9781788927758

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