McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Natalie Santizo

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Major and Classification

Sociology and Psychology

Faculty Mentor

    George Sánchez, Ph.D.

Department

    American Studies and Ethnicity

McNair Project

Fusing Asian and American: The 626 Night Market

Abstract
"Fusing Asian and American: The 626 Night Market" develops new terminology for the relationship between space and place in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Space and place is evaluated in relation to ethnic and cultural identity, which is explored via the 626 Night Market of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). The 626 Night Market, taking place at the Santa Anita Race Track each summer, provides a platform for Asian American youth to form, express, and explore their cultural and ethnic identities. From interviews conducted with self-identifying Asian American youth between the ages of 18 and 24, as well as Latina/o attendees, I gather a collective of experiences in the SGV to examine the value of a new emerging platform for cultural exploration and self-identity. The diverse responses and conflicts experienced in these interviews point to a new development: an ethnic hub. An ethnic hub is a place where Asian American youth can relive the experiences of their parents in foreign countries, but also learn and express their cultural identities. Not only do youth explore their ethnic roots, but find a way to fuse their American values, customs, and practices to form one identity. While this event may at first be thought of as an ethnic enclave, I question the significance and impact of the event and see it as a breakthrough for Asian American youth to settle their complex cultures: ethnic cultures inherited from their parents combined with their American lifestyles. How does the 626 Night Market provide a new model for creating, practicing, and learning about Asian American culture? How does space and place in the suburbs affect notions of cultural authenticity among young Asian Americans? What role does food have in the discussion of space, place, ethnicity, cultural identity and authenticity? This interdisciplinary project draws from food studies, critical race studies, and visual sociology, to dissect the relationship between these notions.