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Conference paper

This paper examines place identity of neighbourhoods characterised by a large number of Vietnamese and their ethnic businesses in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. It draws from theories of place and assemblage to examine how place identities influence people’s attachment to places, social interaction and economic activity. It argues place identity as a dynamic process shaped by objective physical qualities that distinguish a place from others and individual’s subjective perceptions of geographical space that make places to be significant and contested arenas of collective being and belonging.

Neighbourhoods with a large share of Vietnamese communities are chosen as optimal examples of modern ethnic enclaves in spatial, cultural and economic terms, where inhabitants manifest their ethnic identity spatially without reifying nostalgic senses of home, and generate places of exchange with mainstream cultures, livelihoods and ways of intercultural learning.

The paper responds to urgent demands for knowledge, tools and strategies to better design, manage Australian cities, neighbourhoods, and public spaces for an increasingly diverse multicultural society. In Victorian Residential Development Standard, ResCode, place identity is legislated as ‘neighbourhood character’ to control the aesthetic aspects of new developments, which has been criticised because it ignores the dynamics of a place, stagnates innovative housing developments, creates social homogeneity and exclusion.

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