This project explores the long history of displacement of Portland’s Japanese and

Chinese communities in Old-Town. More recently, Portland is also experiencing the

current trend of mass migration back to the cities, creating high demand for urban

dwellings, pricing out poorer, mostly minority communities, pushing them toward

the outer edge of the city. The unique situation of Portland’s Old-Town is a high

concentration of social service agencies and homelessness, plus historical landmark

requirements, leaving Chinatown and Old-Town in a development vacuum. As

Chinese and Asian residents and businesses move out to more affordable locations

in East Portland, Chinatown has become a ghost town with few new business and

shuttered storefronts, while the newly coined Jade District in East Portland strives

to locate its center and identity. This project explores the intriguing territory of

inverted doppelgänger and reverse longing; mediates the space between nostalgia

for the past and practical realities of the present; and arbitrates the delicate balance

of preservation and assimilation.

A Tale of Two Ghettos excavates the hidden history of Old-Town and East Portland.

We will examine the current misuse of the word “ghetto” (that exclusively

denigrates African American neighborhoods) as oppose to its historic meaning. The

installation reminds the audience the danger of losing the culture and history of

communities of Old-Town; the simple social media technology that connects Old-

Town to East Portland, accentuates the fragile solution to this separation. Taiko

performs at both sites act as echolocation device for our communities to search out

and connect to the disappearing history of Old-Town.

Other information:

Since the beginning of Portland’s history, the Chinese and Japanese communities

had been segregated in ghettoized neighborhoods. Chinese Americans were not

allowed to own land until the Magnuson Act was fully repealed in 1965. The current

Chinatown used to be called “New Chinatown/Japan town” as the “old” Chinatown

became the first victim of the gentrification and displacement when Portland

renovated its waterfront during the 30’s. During WW II, Chinese began filling in the

vacancy left by interned Japanese Americans, and in a way, built on top of the old

Japantown. It is this layered history that is fascinating to me. The “Ghettos” refer to

Japantown and Chinatown, but also describe a borderless ghetto in East Portland

where low income and ethnic communities have moved. As the march of urban

gentrification continues, the newly settled are now subject to further displacement.