Spaces of Ethnic Consumption in Sydney

Miss Yingfei Wang1, Professor Duanfang  Lu1

1The University of Sydney, , Australia

This paper aims to examine how people perceive and experience spaces of ethnic consumption in Hurstville, widely known as Sydney’s new Chinatown.  The inflow of migrants has constantly changed Australia’s social and physical landscapes.   One of the significant transformations is the rise of ethnic consumption spaces that manifest in shopping strips and shopping centres in neighbourhoods of immigrant communities. The dynamics of ethnic consumption spaces pose new challenges for urban planning, however, the research on its complexity remains limited. This study aims to fill the research gap by looking to the intricate connection between ethnic consumption spaces, everyday practices and the making of place identity.  Hurstville is located 16 kilometres south of the Sydney CBD, where a rapid increase of the China-born population took place from the mid-1990s onwards. Based on the latest census in 2016, Hurstville is the most ethnically Chinese suburb in Sydney, with 52.5% of Hurstville’s population reporting their heritage as Chinese. Apart from Chinese migrants, other ethnic groups also coexist in this suburb, including local Australians and migrants from Nepal, Indonesia and India. This paper offers an analysis of the perceptions and lived experience of different user groups with Forest Road, the main retail street of Hurstville, based on historical research, visual analysis, in-depth interviews and site observation. It shows that ethnic consumption spaces have played an important role in helping Chinese migrants develop a sense of belonging, and provided a rich cultural experience for users from other ethnic groups. Unlike traditional Chinatowns, difference is perceived as an exotic experience, but as a constituent element of local communities. By combing spatial and social analysis, this paper contributes a better understanding of ethnic consumption spaces and a knowledge base for future retail district development in culturally diverse suburbs.


Yingfei Wang is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research interest focuses on cultural identity and the built environment. She holds a B.Arch. degree from Harbin Institute of Technology, China and Master degree in Environmental Design from the University of Bath, UK. She has an architect practicing in China and an assistant editor of AC Architecture.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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