|The Golden Buddha: One of the Chinese restaurants located in the Chinese Cultural Center (photo by RJ Watson, 2011).|
|Super L Ranch Market: The Chinese grocery store located in the Chinese Cultural Center (photo by RJ Watson, 2011).|
668 N. 44th St., Suite 201W, Phoenix, AZ 85008
The Chinese Cultural Center was built in 1997 and is owned by a state-run China enterprise named China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO). Located within the plaza are a variety of culturally specific businesses, such as Chinese restaurants, a video store, a bank, and a market. Behind the center is a Chinese garden representing historical landscapes in China.
The Chinese Cultural Center serves as an “ethnic nexus,” which is a cultural core that connects cultural practices to people living in ethnically dispersed spaces (Park). In the Phoenix metropolitan area, Chinese families are distributed throughout all corners of the Valley and may use the Chinese Cultural Center as a means to maintain their culture. Phoenix represents a more ethnically dispersed community that deviates from “ethnic enclaves,” which are more spatially concentrated ethnic spaces. As an “ethnic nexus,” the Chinese Cultural Center provides Chinese residents with the opportunity to carry out everyday cultural practices and the chance to connect with the cultural history of China.
Along the storefronts are culturally specific businesses, such as Chinese restaurants. These restaurants offer a space for people to engage in culture though dining -- Golden Buddha is known for Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine, Lao Shing Hing is known for Shanghai cuisine, and Szechwan Palace is known for spicy Szechwan cuisine. The Super L Ranch Market is a Chinese grocery store with a wide variety of Asian food. Chinese residents are able to preserve and practice the culture that impacts their everyday lives by having access to these food resources.
The cultural center also works to organize local festivals, such as the Moon Festival, World Wushu Day, and the Chinese New Year Festival. These events are open to all members of the community; providing a chance for Chinese residents to celebrate their culture and offering visibility for non-Chinese residents to learn about the untold stories of Chinese history. For example, the Chinese Cultural Center organizes Phoenix Chinese Week on Lunar New Year, which is filled with cultural activities and performances. The 2011 Lunar New Year featured Chinese arts and crafts, calligraphy demonstrations, a classical fashion show, Chinese dances, a children's pavilion, Taipei dragon boat display and a Chinese invention and history booth. Residents are able to use this space as an “ethnic nexus” that can provide specific cultural history.
The conception of the “ethnic nexus” is relevant when thinking about the assimilation theory. The assimilation theory assumes that ethnicity will cease to exist and merge with Protestant, white American society (Lei 78). However, the “ethnic nexus” contests this assumption by using space, such as the Chinese Cultural Center, to keep people connected with their ethnic culture. In this way, the “ethnic nexus” may serve as a buffer to assimilation.
George Lipsitz discusses the white spatial imaginary and the black spatial imaginary. One key feature of each spatial imaginary is that the white spatial imaginary derives from exchange value, the black spatial imaginary derives from use value (Lipsitz 14). He describes how land operates for investment purposes (exchange) or serves the public need (use). Considering the Chinese Cultural Center as an “ethnic nexus,” an important question to ask next is the conception of the Asian spatial imaginary. Spaces, such as the Chinese Cultural Center, do make profit but also serve the purpose of connecting people with culture.
- RJ Watson and Geralden Del Rosario
Park, Kyeyoung, and Leong C. Leong. How Do Asian Americans Create Places? From Background to Foreground. Amerasia Journal, 2008. Print.
Stocks, Deborah. "Celebrate Everything Chinese at Phoenix Festival." ABC15. 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2011.
Li, Wei. "Spatial Transformation of an Urban Ethnic Community from Chinatown to Ethnoburb in Los Angeles." From Urban Enclave to Ethnic Suburb. University of Hawai'i, 2006. 74-94. Print.
Lipsitz, George. “The Racialization of Space and the Spatialization of Race.” The Possessive Investment of Whiteness. Print.