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Shengfang Chou

MA work

Dissertation: Rethinking Chinatown: Limehouse, London 1900-1930

The widespread use of the term ‘Chinatown’ has long since created an unchallenged stereotype in western historical thinking. This thesis uses a case study approach inspired by visual materials representing the Chinese community in Limehouse (Pennyfields and Causeway streets) to offer a new interpretation of the area as ‘Chinastreet’ in place of ‘Chinatown’. Evidence is drawn from a range of sources including local newspapers, Chinese texts, photographs taken between 1900 and 1930, now in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, and social scientist Charles Booth’s notebooks composed during his London map project, now in the London School of Economics’ Archives. These materials reveal that ‘Chinatown’ is a misnomer, as applied to the Limehouse area in the early twentieth century. While some British-based scholars have recently advanced this argument with reference to Limehouse’s Chinatown, my focus lies in a new interpretation of these two streets that distinguishes between the designation ‘Chinatown’ and the real, physical place. The design features and unique identity of the area, and the interaction between images of ‘Chinese-ness’ and local social events, theories of the flâneur and spectacle, are all significant aspects that are mobilised in ‘Rethinking Chinatown: Limehouse, London 1900–1930’.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2010

  • Dissertation: Rethinking Chinatown: Limehouse, London 1900-1930

    The widespread use of the term ‘Chinatown’ has long since created an unchallenged stereotype in western historical thinking. This thesis uses a case study approach inspired by visual materials representing the Chinese community in Limehouse (Pennyfields and Causeway streets) to offer a new interpretation of the area as ‘Chinastreet’ in place of ‘Chinatown’. Evidence is drawn from a range of sources including local newspapers, Chinese texts, photographs taken between 1900 and 1930, now in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, and social scientist Charles Booth’s notebooks composed during his London map project, now in the London School of Economics’ Archives. These materials reveal that ‘Chinatown’ is a misnomer, as applied to the Limehouse area in the early twentieth century. While some British-based scholars have recently advanced this argument with reference to Limehouse’s Chinatown, my focus lies in a new interpretation of these two streets that distinguishes between the designation ‘Chinatown’ and the real, physical place. The design features and unique identity of the area, and the interaction between images of ‘Chinese-ness’ and local social events, theories of the flâneur and spectacle, are all significant aspects that are mobilised in ‘Rethinking Chinatown: Limehouse, London 1900–1930’.

  • Degrees

  • MA, Creative Practice for Narrative Environments, University of the Arts, 2008; BA (Hons), Fine Arts, University of Tung-Hai, Taiwan, 1995
  • Experience

  • Curator, China Connections (China Now Festival), Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, 2007/8; Research assistant, Taipei Representative Of?ce, Brussels, Belgium, 2004-6; Editor, Art China magazine, China Times, Taipei, Taiwan, 1997-2000; Freelance writer, Contemporary Design magazine, Mook magazine, Taipei, Taiwan, 1997-2000
  • Exhibitions

  • Inside Outside, Alicante Cultural Center, Alicante, Spain, 2002
  • Awards

  • Grant, Digital Art Grant, Communaute Française de Belgique, 2007; Department of Cultural Affairs Taipei City Government Grants, 2005