Chinatown is the neighborhood I’ll be focusing on for my final project.
This abstract by Jia Lou inspired my choice. I want to look into why there has been such a sudden shift in demographics and even population drop from 3,000 to 500.
With the changing immigrant population and rising real-estate prices in downtown Washington, D.C., the number of Chinese residents and businesses in its Chinatown has declined in recent years. Meanwhile, non-Chinese stores and restaurants have marched into this thriving neighborhood. Foreseeing the threat of Chinatown’s disappearance from the urban landscape, leaders of the local Chinese community have devised and administered a mandate for all businesses, Chinese and non-Chinese, in the area to carry Chinese shop signs. To understand how this mandate has reconstructed Chinatown’s semiotic landscape, this article employs the theoretical framework of geosemiotics and the (post-)structuralist conception of the sign. Through an analysis of shop signs in their material contexts, it is argued that the local community’s preservation effort has inadvertently rendered Chinatown into a heterotopia, where heterogeneous spaces are juxtaposed into one place.