UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Repositioning ethnicity : the transformation of Vancouver's Chinatown into a site for tourism, leisure and consumption Francois, Bertrand


This thesis examines the repositioning of Chinatown into a site for tourism, leisure and consumption. It seeks to identify the actors and processes driving the transformation with the ultimate goal to determine the optimal conditions under which expressions of culture can be transformed into a vehicle for socio-economic development to the advantage of both immigrants and the city at large. I argue that the district’s current shape and form can be attributed to a changing configuration of actors and processes. At the centre of it all are Chinatown merchants, who took the first steps towards retrofitting Chinatown for popular consumption over seven decades ago. Seven decades later, the latter still actively shape the district. Also included are City of Vancouver planners, who have drastically altered their stance towards regulating Chinatown during the last four decades or so. Whereas the latter initially focused on preserving and enhancing the district’s landscape, more recent interventions have involved local stakeholders and have had the goal to build a complete community. I conclude that such a holistic approach is more likely to result in development to the benefit of all actors involved.

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