May 3, 2015
How long will the enclave of immigrant communities such as DC’s Ethiopian, Chinese and Greek communities retain their unique identities in wake of so much historical assimilation and displacement?
Join the discussion on May 21st at The Coupe. The event time is 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
At the turn of the 20th century, Washington, DC was a patchwork of European immigrant communities representing a wide array of nationalities and ethnicities. Like most east-coast metropolitan areas, there were Irish, Italian, German, Greek, and Jewish enclaves, each with relatively insular cultural traditions and self-sustaining economic systems. But at various points over the ensuing five decades these communities would become shadows of their former selves, leaving traces scarcely visible to the casual streetscape observer.
In more recent years, other previously vibrant immigrant communities have become increasingly diffuse. The Chinese community’s cultural predominance in the Chinatown neighborhood hinges on the programming and awareness conducted by the Chinatown Community Cultural Center and the dwindling population of the Wah Luck House. Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant, once bastions of the DC’s Central American culture, have experienced a dramatic exodus to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. The Washington, DC metro area is currently home to more people of Ethiopian descent than any city outside Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The core of this community is a small portion of the Shaw neighborhood sometimes (controversially) known as “Little Ethiopia.”
How long will these communities retain their unique identities in wake of so much historical assimilation and displacement? Have ethnic enclaves in other cities experienced so much fluidity, either nationally or globally, or is the phenomenon unique to Washington? How are historians, anthropologists, and other scholars working to preserve the cultures of extant immigrant communities while reclaiming those that have been rendered invisible?
Moderator – Jill H. Wilson, Senior Research Analyst, Brookings Institute
Panelists: Christine Warnke, Ted Gong, Olivia Cadaval, Quique Aviles, Ana Rodriguez, Trymaine Lee