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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vancouver’s night markets : intercultural encounters in urban and suburban Chinatowns Pottie-Sherman, Yolande


This study compares two Chinese-themed night markets in Vancouver, Canada. The Chinatown Night Market is held in the City’s downtown historic Chinatown, while the Summer Night Market is held in the suburb of Richmond. Night markets are iconic elements in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and have a specific sensorial design created by tightly packed crowds, loud music, dim sum, and vendors selling pop culture goods. The central question of this research concerns the role of the everyday for intercultural understanding and engagement. As such, it places the night markets at the centre of three inter-related debates in the literature: the role of space in everyday encounters with difference; the interplay of structure and agency in the construction and representation of Chinatown; and the role of marketplaces specifically in fostering meaningful intercultural exchange in plural societies. This thesis compares Vancouverites’ experiences with difference in the two marketplaces, drawing on 88 interviews with consumers and vendors, ten in-depth key informant interviews (with market administrators and city officials), and hours of participant observation over the course of two years. The overarching contribution of this research is to demonstrate that the night markets, as everyday spaces, foster intercultural interaction and engagement. These everyday encounters with difference, however, do not occur in a vacuum. This research makes three inter-related arguments. First, the night market phenomenon in Metro Vancouver is a project in re-writing both the City landscape and the suburban landscape in a way that challenges imposed notions of “Chineseness” by city governments and multicultural planning discourses. As such, these cases reveal the struggle between structure and agency in the representation of Chinatown. Second, the different trajectories of the two marketplaces reveal a shift in the scale of diversity management planning discourses, from mosaic to micro-scale. Third, the night markets both reveal and contribute to the social normalization of ethno-cultural diversity in Metro Vancouver’s public realm.

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