COSMOPOLITAN SUBURBS: ASIAN IMMIGRATION AND THE POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT IN SILICON VALLEY Willow Lung-Amam is currently writing a book tentatively entitled, Cosmopolitan Suburbs: Asian Immigration and the Politics of Development in Silicon Valley. The book investigates how recent trends in high tech Asian immigration are reshaping suburban form, geographies of race, and politics of development in Silicon Valley. In an in-depth case study one Silicon Valley community, the book investigates the history of Asian immigration in the region and three spaces that mark their influence on its built form and politics—Mansions, high-performing schools, and Asian malls. I argue that these spaces highlight new uses and spaces of everyday life and meaning among Asian immigrant suburbanites. But they also show how landscapes, even those occupied by minorities of means, are “minoritized”—the subjects of cultural critique, social contest, and new forms of regulation. The book exposes the ways in which white, middle-class norms, meanings, and values continue to be reinforced through planning policy and processes, as well as the design of the suburban built environment. It shows that the built environment is also a critical arena for an emergent politics over a “right to difference” in suburbia, as Asian immigrants as well as other minority groups are no longer simply fighting for access to suburban space, but for their right to different ways of being suburban and its expression in their everyday landscapes. The book contributes to scholarship on social and environmental justice in urban policy and planning, diversity in the design of cities, and suburban studies. Articles based on this research have appeared in Amerasia Journal, Journal of Urban Design, Journal of American Ethnic History (forthcoming 2014) and two books—Transcultural Cities: Border-crossing Placemaking and Making Suburbia (forthcoming 2014).
MOSQUES, TEMPLES, AND CHURCHES: ASIAN IMMIGRANT PLACEMAKING AND POLITICS IN SILICON VALLEY SUBURBIA This research looks at the ways in which Asian faith institutions (including mosques, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist temples, and Asian Christian churches) are reshaping the form, use, and function of Silicon Valley suburbia’s landscape as well as the planning and neighborhood politics behind their development. Through in-depth interviews with various faith leaders and community members, ethnographic data obtained from participation at events at several institutions, and archival data, including planning, design, and development documents, newspaper articles, and institutional marketing and informational literature, this research proposes to show faith institutions have often been at the center of debates over the changing racial and ethnic composition of Silicon Valley communities, while also serving as critical social and political institutions for many Asian immigrants. The research highlights how these institutions service the needs of Asian immigrants in ways that go well beyond their roles as places of worship. They host to a range of social, community, political, and cultural functions that reinforce the common cultural practices, meanings, values, and identities of Asian immigrant suburbanites. But it also shows these spaces as contested grounds as local neighbors and planners negotiate the design and uses of these spaces in a rapidly diversifying region.
IMMIGRATION AND THE CHANGING POLITICS OF PLACE IN THE NEW SOUTH This project is a case study of the Chapel Hill school district as it was in the process of redrawing its attendance boundaries for, among other things, enrolling students in a newly re-opened historically African American school. The reopening of this school was an important moment for African Americans in Chapel Hill, particularly those who lived in the Northside neighborhood, whose children had been bussed out of the neighborhood for decades to balance enrollment at predominantly white schools throughout the area. In the debate that ensued, the loudest voice of opposition somewhat surprisingly came from recent Asian immigrants who clustered in a neighborhood slated to be redistricted to the new Northside Elementary School. The research raises questions how the politics of race and immigration factored into the debates about the new school and its attendance boundaries. Using in-depth interviews with affected residents and school officials as well as archival research on district-wide public debates, newspaper accounts, and literature from the organizing efforts to oppose the new school’s attendance boundaries, the project follows the debate from its origins to its resolution. The research proposes to show how its central concerns fit into a larger framework of changing demographics of the New South, and particularly how these demographics shifts are raising new questions about the presumptions behind educational policies that were and still remain prefaced on a black-white paradigm. Instead this research suggests a new politics of race and education in the South, which complicates the ways in which school policy understands and address issues of diversity and equity in a rapidly diversifying region. The research was funded by the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity and Department of City and Regional Planning at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
FOR THE HOUSING POLICY, DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIZATION
IMMIGRATION AND MULTI-GENERATIONAL HOME BUILDING
This project looks at the intersection between immigration and national, regional, and local trends in multi-general home building. The research explores the influence of immigration on trends in multi-generational home development by comparing national trends in home building industry and those for home designed specifically for immigrants. It also looks at the changing form of the single-family home and how it is being shaped by these larger forces to accommodate more diverse populations and lifestyles. The research is intended to provide evidence of how immigration is impacting the changing suburban landscape and how the home builders might better respond to the needs and desires of an increasingly diversity suburban American public.
FOR THE ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIZATION
SUBURBAN REDEVELOPMENT AND RESISTANCE: THE CASE FOR EQUITABLE TOD
The project engages two important trends in the fields of planning and urban design—suburban “retrofit” or redevelopment and the suburbanization of poverty and immigration. Suburban retrofitting, which promotes more walkable, mixed-used, and compact suburban development, has recently become popular in many urban design and planning circles and has helped to transform many formerly sprawling suburbs into more prototypically “urban” places. At the same time, suburbia is undergoing massive demographic change. Once thought to be the sole province of white middle-class and elites, over the past few decades, suburbia has been at the center of America’s increasing social diversity—home to the majority of all racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and the poor. This research focuses on the concerns raised by these two intersecting trends for disadvantaged communities. It asks how the resistance to suburban redevelopment and retrofit projects in low-income, minority, and immigrant communities informs the challenges of and to suburban redevelopment in an age of unprecedented suburban diversity and shifting geographies of metropolitan inequality. It probes questions about how communities are mobilizing to fight against such seemingly “good” urbanism, what they are fighting for and against, how these projects’ location in suburbia both complicates and informs the debates about them, and the impacts of contemporary processes of suburban spatial transformation on socially and economically vulnerable communities. The research uses a case study approach focused on several low-income minority and immigrant communities in Washington, DC metro area, which have recently or are proposed to undergo major redevelopment. This project hopes to forward a critical conversation about the way that contemporary suburban redevelopment and renewal practices are taking shape among urban planning and design scholars, practitioners, and policy makers. The project adds a sustained focus on questions of social equity to a discourse that has hereto largely focused on urban form and environmental sustainability. It proposes to proffer both cautionary tales as well as potential policy responses and design practices to better respond to the concerns of increasingly diverse and vulnerable suburban populations. I have received support for this research from the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s Junior Faculty Research Grant, UMD’s Qualitative Research Interest Group at the Center for Race, Gender, and Ethnicity. The project is intended to lead to a book manuscript tentatively entitled, “The Right to Suburbia: Redevelopment and Resistance on the Urban Edge.”