Students Yuko Nakamura and Hongyan Yang will present their papers, below, as part of the session, "Exploring Built Environments with Oral History."
Thu, October 9, 8:30 to 10:00am, Madison Concourse Hotel, 2, Conference I
- Hongyan Yang, "Buildings Speak: An Incorporation of Oral History into Material Culture Studies"
- Yuko Nakamura, "Reconstructing Place from Olfactory Narratives: North Downer Avenue in the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, Milwaukee, Wisconsin"
Dr. Arijit Sen will present his paper, "Vegetable, Fish and Mango Streets: Refiguring Immigrant Landscapes Through Food Imagery," as part of the session, "Exploring Cultural Narratives."
Fri, October 10, 3:45 to 5:15pm, Madison Concourse Hotel, 1, Caucus
Place is an intensely local concept. But when attention shifts to immigrants who inhabit multiple locations, often separated by distances and time, the territorial description of place becomes problematic. Immigrants experience place differently and often describe a local landscape using images and experiences from a different location.
This paper examines how a culture of mobility influences the ways South Asian immigrants along Devon Avenue, Chicago,e speak about locality and place. Although the owners of these stores have diverse national, language, religious and regional backgrounds the street is referred to by pan-ethnic descriptive monikers such as Little India or as a South Asian marketplace. Internal differences are rendered invisible purposely since a unified front produces a coherent identity.
Yet, my analysis of twenty in-depth interviews with storeowners shows how national and sub-group differences can be read in the sensory descriptions of place. Different in-group spatial imaginations are sustained by using sensory references such as visual arrangement of food objects, types of cuisines, food memories, cooking smells, and groceries. For instance, Bangladeshi storeowners differentiate themselves from Indian and Pakistani stores by advertising (and taking about) fish in ways that makes sense only to their Bangladeshi customers. The internal spatial organization of their stores are related to the variety of fish they sell and their descriptions of Devon Avenue is organized around a taxonomy of stores selling and smelling of different fish products. In addition they use piscatorial experiences from Bangladesh (how fish is caught, cut and sold) in order to describe their merchandise. These place descriptions framed by sensory references to food subtly express regional and religious affiliations.
An effective jargon based on common cultural experiences and experiential order of place becomes a formulaic in-group communicative strategy. This paper’s focus on trans-national sensory experience in the interpretation of place sheds new light on our understandings of the material world of immigrants.