Chinese Immigrant Cultivating Their Front Lawn (Montville, Connecticut USA), 2012. © Stephen Fan. Chinese Immigrant Cultivating Their Front Lawn (Montville, Connecticut USA), 2012. © Stephen Fan.

Coding Citizenship

In the suburban subdivisions surrounding one of the largest casinos in North America, Chinese immigrant casino workers have converted single family homes into multifamily communities. Unrelated individuals living together form surrogate families, residents drying lingerie and fish within full view of their neighbors, and productive Asian vegetable gardens replacing ornamental grass front lawns are a few examples of how these immigrants have inadvertently challenged normative conventions of American suburban living.

In the eyes of many long-standing residents, the living practices of these immigrant transformations are crowded, substandard, and simply “just not right.” Supplanting the American suburban aesthetic, social, and moral codes of maintenance, order, and propriety with their own, these new Americans are seen as a threat to the property values and identity claims that those codes are constructed to uphold. Regulated largely through zoning, these codes are justified by claims that they safeguard the “safety, health, morals and general welfare.” But whom are these codes intended to protect and whom are they intended to exclude?

Stephen Fan

Stephen Fan is the founding director of Inter APD, a research/design collaborative working at the intersections of architecture, planning, and design. He is the curator of SubUrbanisms: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns, and the Contested American Landscape, and a Fellow at the Institute for Public Architecture and Urban Design Forum. stephenfan.com | @sfanmail