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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

August 8, 2007

Written by C.N.

Newest Ethnic Enclave: Cambodia Town

As my article on Asian American Ethnic Communities and Enclaves describes, predominantly Asian neighborhoods in the U.S. referred to as Chinatown, Little Tokyo/Japantown, Koreatown, Little India, Little Saigon, and Filipinotown/Little Manila have been around for a long time and offer many benefits to not just the Asians and Asian Americans who live or work there, but also to surrounding non-Asian communities and American society in general. I’ve also recently written about how the nature of such ethnic enclaves are evolving and likely to change in the future.

As another example of this evolving ethnic urban landscape, the Los Angeles Times reports that a neighborhood in Long Beach, CA has just been officially designated as Cambodia Town, the first Cambodian ethnic enclave to be recognized in the U.S. (thanks to for publicizing this story first):

City and community leaders say the designation not only will recognize the contributions of Cambodians, but also will help revitalize the neighborhood by attracting more businesses, visitors and tourists to the area. San and others are making plans to put up Cambodia Town signs and set up a business improvement district and are considering building a community center and a memorial to those who died under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. . . .

The drive to get a Cambodia Town began in 2001, when a few community members began meeting to talk about the possibility. The leaders brought the issue to the City Council last year. Some critics expressed concerns that the designation could lure more gangs to the area and that it would exclude Latinos and African Americans.

But Cambodian leaders argued that the title would help the entire city by making the street safer and cleaner and by developing the neighborhood into a regional destination. Naming the area Cambodia Town would also highlight immigrants’ cultural heritage and encourage youths to get involved helping their community, San said.

Congratulations and kudos to all those involved in making this official designation a reality. As the article notes, this kind of designation is not about dividing or “Balkanizing” a community or city. Instead, it’s about acknowledging the unique historical experiences and cultural contributions of a geographically-concentrated ethnic group and attracting more businesses and visitors.

But perhaps most of all, it’s about recognizing that “Americans” these days can come from many different backgrounds and have different physical appearances, but who all share the goal of contributing to the strength, vitality, and growth of American society as it moves forward in the 21st century.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Newest Ethnic Enclave: Cambodia Town" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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