Portlandia's Other Children : Refugee Communities in Urban Life Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/794081499

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  • This research analyzes the relations of ethnic refugee communities and particularly their businesses to gentrification and community vitality in a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The data indicates that gentrification is not a linear process of displacement of African Americans by Whites seeking affordable housing and new frontiers, but rather is a process of conflict and cooperation involving various communities, many of color, whose cultural and economic vitalities contribute to a demographically, culturally and economically mixed type of gentrification. The data is based on three years of participant observation and 172 interviews with in-migrants, oldtimers, Southeast Asians [Cambodians], former Yugoslavs [Bosniaks], and Somalis in the Montavilla neighborhood. The study shows that ethnic businesses in the refugee communities are vital nodes of articulation among communities--messy, marginal, and anxiety-inducing to urban residents, yet attractive to in-migrants and pivotal to overall community vitality, safety, and livability. The ethnic businesses also provide cultural maintenance and transmission within the refugee groups as they struggle with mainstream American culture, its racism and their own need to adapt and survive. Refugees and immigrants are not just assimilated by "American" culture; they also bring culture with them, which then becomes part of the national experience. In short, these are the hubs of community vitality that support the process of neighborhood improvement in a form of gentrification that has received scant attention in the literature.
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