Transclave: authenticity and ethnicity in the marketplace

Authors: Jinwon Kim*, Hamilton College
Topics: Cultural Geography, United States, Global Change
Keywords: Ethnicity, Authenticity, Ethnic Enclave
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Marshall South, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Koreatown in Manhattan draws Koreans and non-Koreans, tourists and locals seeking everything Korean, from day spas to nightlife. Koreatown’s visitors come to the area to consume authentic, yet modern, Korean culture. I investigate how Korea’s nation branding strategy, new patterns in migration, and changes in the urban landscape and policies in New York City shape Koreatown into a unique kind of ethnic enclave. This enclave, or as I term it, “transclave,” is a transnational space for Seoul-style consumption where transnational flows of culture, money, and a sending country’s policies intersect with urban redevelopment plans and the racial and ethnic mosaic of New York City.
In this paper, I locate Koreatown in the recent rise of authenticity and ethnicity in the marketplace, which coincides with the rise of the international tourism industry and experience economy. The city government try to make their city authentic by preserving historical buildings and districts and branding each ethnic enclave with a distinctive and unique cultural identity. In such a city, ethnic consumer culture, commodified and commercialized, territorializes the urban landscape, making the city’s image more multicultural and socially diverse. However, Koreatown’s authenticity represents the collective imaginations of various transnational actors, such as immigrants, the sending state, the local government, and consumers, and symbolic struggles over how we define authenticity—including who has rights to claim it. In this sense, Koreatown is not fixed in a particular time and space, but an on-going process of ideas and experiences that travel across the national borders.

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