Sociospatial Marginalization in the U.S. West: Early Chinatowns and Their Co-location with Red-Light Districts
Bancroft, Karen Hope
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This historical sociospatial analysis explored the question: What policies and practices enabled the construction of Chinatowns in the U.S. West as spaces of marginalization? Within this, the dissertation examined two secondary questions: (a) What mechanisms resulted in the spatial marginalization of Chinatowns? (b) What mechanisms resulted in the co-location of Chinatowns and red-light districts? The study looked in particular at five potential dimensions of spatial marginalization: location, infrastructure, laws and regulations, social norms, and co-location. The dissertation has three main components. It first presents an overview of Chinatowns in the U.S. West from 1848 through the 1910s and the rise and fall of red-light districts, nationally, from the 1890s to the 1920s. GIS maps were constructed from historical census data to show the growth of Chinese communities in the U. S. West prior to 1880 and their contraction by 1900. It then presents the two linked studies that form the heart of the dissertation. Using historical census data and Sanborn maps, the first study examined the role of location, infrastructure, and co-location as mechanisms of marginalization in five U.S. western towns - Prescott, Arizona; Bakersfield, California; Reno, Nevada; Baker City, Oregon; and Walla Walla, Washington. Analyses focused on characterizing the spatial layout of each town in 1890, providing evidence of spatial marginalization strategies, and uncovering co-location of Chinatowns and red-light districts in each of these towns from the 1890s to the 1920s. The second study, an in-depth case study of Reno, examined the role of laws and regulations and social norms, and uncovered the policies behind the co-location of its Chinatown and red-light district. These studies, in combination with the contextual investigation, provided compelling findings on the sociospatial factors resulting in the marginalization of Chinatowns in the U.S. West. The dissertation expands on extant studies by looking at the role of sociospatial factors across five Western Chinatowns. It also contributes new findings on the influence Whites had in the process of co-location of Chinatowns and red-light districts. Methodologically, the dissertation adds to the very small body of research by historians of social welfare using spatial analyses.