Selling Ethnicity: A Look at Toronto's Localized Multi-Cultural Communities
The city of Toronto is considered a model multicultural city, according to UN-HABITAT. Statistics Canada's 2001 Census shows 43% of Toronto's population to be made up of Immigrants. Therefore, Toronto is a fertile ground for examining the dynamics of Multiculturalism. My paper examines the ways in which a city like Toronto manifests its multicultural character. With this research I aim to open up further research potential in the area of multicultural studies. My research takes a semiotic approach to examining Toronto’s multicultural neighbourhood’s street signs. Spatial images are the dreams of society. Wherever the hieroglyphics of any spatial image is deciphered, there the basis of social reality presents itself. (Siegfried Kracauer). The city, as space, can be read through the hieroglyphics, the signs that give it shape. Certain streets, in the city of Toronto, are inscribed by city street signage that delineate specific cultural areas, such as Little Italy, Corso Italia, Gerrard India Bazaar, Greektown on the Danforth, Korea Town, Portugal Village, and Chinatown; these ethnic neighbourhood names juxtapose with the proper street names on city street signs. The signs make visible while also standardizing Toronto’s multicultural claim. The signs create the city space as a place of exhibition, and in light of Toronto, an exhibition of Cultures. I parallel Toronto, in a comparative structural analysis, with another institution of exhibition, the Zoo – a space for the exhibition of exotic creatures. I mean to draw a parallel between the City of Toronto and zoos to examine the possible effects of culturally defining local spaces. My research advances thinking in the formation of city centers. As cities continue to attract migrants, understanding the effects of designating specific cultural groups with specific city areas will be an imperative task.
Keywords: Ethnic Community, Urban Studies, Toronto, Multiculturalism
PhD candidate, Division of Humanities, York University