Mainstreaming the Asian Mall:
Regulating Asian American Space
in the Silicon Valley Suburbia
Presentation by Willow Lung-Amam University of Maryland
Wednesday, April 16
|Preinkert Field House – Conference Room 1112V
University of Maryland College Park
|Asian malls are an increasingly popular form of shopping centers within Silicon Valley and other centers of Asian American suburban life. In an age of vast demographic shift in suburbia’s population, this presentation asks what these malls reveal about the ways in which Asian Americans, especially immigrants, are making home and place in suburbia and their struggles to do so. In a case study of one Silicon Valley suburb faced with both rapid demographic change and development, the presentation highlights Asian malls as both critical community and cultural spaces that defy many of the negative stereotypes typically associated with suburban shopping centers as well as contested social spaces. The presentation will highlight these malls’ valuable roles in meeting Asian American suburbanites’ practical needs of everyday life and fostering important social connections, their sense of place, community, and connection to the larger Asian diaspora. But it will also show how non-Asian American residents, city officials, and planners have sometimes stirred debates over their development that have resulted in new planning and design policies regulating them. These malls and their politics highlight how suburbia’s built environment is changing to meet the demands of its increasingly diverse residents, and at the same time, how such changes often challenge and are challenged by suburbia’s dominant spatial norms and standards. Asian malls thus raise important questions about the roles of planning, design, and public policy in responding to the needs of an increasingly diverse suburban public and regulating spaces of and expressions of difference in the urban landscape.
WILLOW LUNG-AMAM, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies and Planning Program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her scholarship focuses on the link between social inequality and the built environment, and collaborative and community-engaged research on the issues faced by socially disadvantaged groups. Dr. Lung-Amam has worked professionally on master planning projects in low-income communities, and with non-profits, public agencies, and private firms on issues of public housing, community development, and urban design. She is currently working on a book on Asian immigration in Silicon Valley suburbia, which investigates how recent trends in high tech immigration are reshaping the region’s built form, geographies of race, and the politics of development. Her work has appeared in Transcultural Cities: Border-crossing and Placemaking edited by Jeffrey Hou, Journal of Urban Design, and Amerasia Journal.