Selling Ethnicity: A Look at Toronto's Localized Multi-Cultural Communities

Francesca D’Angelo
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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
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Selling Ethnicity

Francesca D’Angelo

PhD candidate, Division of Humanities, York University
Toronto, ON, Canada

My research is grounded in examining the manifestation of cultures in city spaces. Using Toronto as my main site of interest, it has allowed me to also consider the proximity of cultures. How do various cultures interact in close spaces, like a city? What is gained or lost by the various interactions? How does the city account for the differences that exist? Much of my questions stem from my psychology and literary background. I am interested in those narratives created by various cultural groups that express their relation to their spaces, like street signs. I aim to explore the psychological effects of culture, identity and space. For the past 3 years, I have been teaching at York University, with both the Division of Humanities and the Division of Social Science, in such courses as, "Ideas of America," "Media, Culture and Society," and "City Lives and City Forms." I have guest lectured at York University in 2007. I have also presented my work at various conferences. The experiences have proved very useful for my future research in the area of Cultural Studies with the Division of Humanities at York University.

Ref: I07P0885