The Aesthetic and Sacred Dimension of Urban Ecology : Paris  Little Asia / La Dimension esthétique et sacrée de l écologie urbaine : la Petite Asie à Paris. - article ; n°1 ; vol.73, pg 35-49
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The Aesthetic and Sacred Dimension of Urban Ecology : Paris' Little Asia / La Dimension esthétique et sacrée de l'écologie urbaine : la Petite Asie à Paris. - article ; n°1 ; vol.73, pg 35-49

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1991 - Volume 73 - Numéro 1 - Pages 35-49
15 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1991
Nombre de lectures 25
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Anne Raulin
Jeanne Brody
The Aesthetic and Sacred Dimension of Urban Ecology : Paris'
Little Asia / La Dimension esthétique et sacrée de l'écologie
urbaine : la Petite Asie à Paris.
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 73, 1991. pp. 35-49.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Raulin Anne, Brody Jeanne. The Aesthetic and Sacred Dimension of Urban Ecology : Paris' Little Asia / La Dimension
esthétique et sacrée de l'écologie urbaine : la Petite Asie à Paris. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 73, 1991.
pp. 35-49.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1991.1574 Sc soc des Re! 1991 73 Janvier-mars) 35-49
La visibilité du quartier chinois de Paris est pas simplement
due ici comme dans autres métropoles un phénomène de
concentration commerciale de cette minorité urbaine En est égale
ment responsable la mise en uvre un style remarquablement
homogène voire stéréotypé caractérisant ensemble de ses établis
sements Par ce truchement effectue la délimitation immédiatement
lisible de ce territoire activités il importe ici de repérer les systèmes
de croyances et de pratiques religieuses des syncrétismes popu
laires mêlant confucianisme bouddhisme taoïsme culte des ancê
tres... qui organisent ces scénographies commerciales Celles-ci consti
tuent une véritable signature urbaine dont on évoque les enjeux
sociaux et culturels pour la diaspora chinoise contemporaine
considerable amount of urban and anthropological research has been
centered around the term space an abstract notion which can be used to define
various objects of differing sizes and contents In this paper we shall be dealing
with such loco to the extent that the place of which we speak can be defined by
specific kind of use of space single vocation and by presence which carries
with it specific world or culture The path which has led us from space to
locale so-to-speak appeared during the course of research project regarding
the way in which urban minorities define their territories in this particular case
fieldwork in the 13th arrondissement of Paris known as Chinatown revealed
the importance of folk religion in specific reconstruction of their
own urban space
At first it was important to understand the strategy behind the installation of
commerces particular to this minority originally from South-East Asia to
observe the topographic organization of this 10 year old neighborhood to
discover where its particular center might be located to describe the way in
which it functions with respect to the commercial dynamics of the rest of Paris
Raulin 1988 This approach involved rethinking of the concepts of urban
ecology created in the 1920s by the School of sociologists in order to
apply them to the analysis of an European urban metropolis in the last quarter of
the XXth century
Subsequently the interest focussed upon the means employed to
recreate not only minority group concentration but an entire urban neigh
borhood quartier with relatively homogeneous nature thanks to parti
cular unity of style With respect to this unity of style particular note was taken
of what might be called commercial scenography the terms decor and
facade refer to the setting in which we find these commercial establishments
which have been transposed here into an adopted environment In this particular
case definition of these terms as scenic parts of expressive equip
ment designed to set the framework for the presentation of self is to be taken
literally and not figuratively Among such elements signs fixed or mobile
decoration and above all altars dedicated to various cults these different
elements of the decor obviously do not all have the same intensity of religious
content but none are entirely without that content It is also important to take
these different elements into consideration as whole not in order to demonstrate
continuity between the sacred and the profane but rather to examine these
variations of degree of religious intensity Thus the aesthetic is not separate from
the religious they reflect and complete one another even in such common and
banal meeting places as asian commercial establishments 2)
Little Asia
About twelve years ago in the 13th district arrondissement of Paris
there appeared the embryo of an Asiatic commercial settlement which has now
reached its adult size. Little Asia has become city within city Within
perimeter which extends from south of the Place Italie to the periphery
boulevard along Choisy and Ivry avenues it comprises over three hundred
commerces These establishments which cover wide range of specializations are
of varying sizes in the case of restaurants which are particularly numerous in the
quarter they range from tiny rooms which can sit only six people to banquet halls
which can sit six hundred food stores neighborhood groceries polyvalent
bazars as well as large supermarkets with underground parking. Little Asia is
also city where one can buy newspapers books video tapes jewelry. where
one can have hair done face done be clothed leam to drive get car
repaired open up bank account insure ones valuables find someone to manage
business etc Where one can organize trip around the world stop over in
hotel have good time..
While the overall majority of these businesses are in the hands of Cambo-
dian- Vietnamese- or Laotian-born Chinese in recent years one has also been
able to find certain number of Vietnamese Cambodians and Laotians
almost all of whom came with the same wave of migrations caused by the 1975
political events in South-East Asia It is because of this ethnic diversity that one
can speak of Little Asia while nevertheless underlining the main dynamics that
the Chinese diaspora has brought to this urban minority concentration It seems
to have grown on an average of 25 establishments per year with some years more
prolific than others Its size in area and the Asiatic density within this perimeter is
phenomenon without precedent in the city of Paris It is principally business
center whose vocation is much more commercial than it is residental the
Asians of Paris tend to prefer to live in various different arrondissements in the
city and above all in the suburbs
However this commercial vocation appears to be decisive It is necessary to
fulfill the needs of the consumers of this heterogeneous community essential in
order to create community centers within foreign urban context The physical
and geographical growth of this area as well as the progressive reconstruction
within this neighborhood framework of cultural manifestations of values pra-
tices and diverse beliefs have been two visible factors in the dynamics of this
minority group
Sign language
Commercial signs make up part of our urban scenery between street and
commerce they indicate specialization they reveal style they give name
name or as in the present case names
Everyone notices Chinese business establishments by way of the ideograms
of their shop signs which also contain name in the latin alphabet We usually
take this name for simple translation of its Chinese equivalent This can be
justified in particular when the shop sign presents names of countries for
example Bangkok-Vientian) or names of symbols star fish fountain garden
or ruby... which evoke quite references from one culture to the next
however this is of little importance here It can be justified also when the shop is
called Chinatown since its equivalent means Chinese city But it is unjus
tified in the majority oteases above all when the latin sign seems to be typically
Chinese behind names using terms such as mandarin pagoda cristal are
many different expressions of feeling The most frequent is happiness the
happiness of being together of celebrating together of eating together. translated
by such shops signs To Love To Be Reunited Ten Thousand Reunions
Great Celebration Together Happy Together Happy To Have Eaten Well
Ten Thousand Happinesses. The satisfaction of being able to celebrate China
in the country of exile can be seen in names such as Tn The New Capital In
The Chinese Capital The Chinese Group The Great China. The taste for
success and wealth is apparent with The God of Wealth In the Country of
Prosperity Coins Noble themes which evoke light the eternal light for
example) or perfume of the river of the orchid... are also frequent But so also
may very banal names in Chinese such as restaurant coexist with very
recherche French names..
The phonetic transcriptions have an obvious exotic evocative power which
remains in the opaque depths of the foreign language nevertheless the choice of
names rhythmed by repetition facilitates their memorisation this is so with Sing
Sing with Thanh Thanh Thing Thing Tao Tao. Another possible sign
language-game are puns which in part draw upon homophony be it sometim

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