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Selling (off) Diversity: The Governance of Ethnic Business Districts in Transatlantic Comparison

Neoliberal urban development has encouraged a proactive attitude towards branding ethno-cultural diversity. At the local level, branding affects the development and governance of ethnic neighborhoods. Ethno-cultural branding strategies are expected to differ between national and local contexts, depending on immigration histories and integration paradigms.

A comparative study of Berlin and Toronto examines the emergence, development, and spreading of ethno-cultural urban branding strategies. In contrast to the established tradition of neighborhood branding through Business Improvement Areas (BIA) in Toronto, Berlin only recently turned from a reactive to a resource-oriented approach towards migrants.

Theoretically, the project draws on the city branding discourse and on (re-)scaling as analytical concept to explore strategies and programs by different actors. In this way, the project will sketch a policy-centered as well as an actor-centered perspective. By investigating neighborhood and locally-based policies, and globally circulating approaches in a relational perspective, the project asks about the contradiction of the political objective of branding and the requirements of migrant entrepreneurs as research objects.

Methodologically, the project is based on a combined document and literature analysis, complemented by interviews with municipal politicians, BIA-managers, representatives of business promotion agencies, migrant entrepreneurs, and residents in both cities. Empirical activities in Toronto will focus on two BIA’s – the Gerrard India Bazaar and Chinatown Spadina – and the privately managed East Chinatown.

This project is realized in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Harald Bauder, Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) at Ryerson University, Toronto and Prof. Dr. Robert Pütz, Department of Human Geography, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a.M.