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Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement


Selling (off) Diversity: The Governance of Ethnic Business Districts in Transatlantic Comparison

Principal Investigator: Dr. Antonie Schmiz, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt am Main; Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow at Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto

Co-Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Robert Puetz, Institut fuer Humangeographie, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt am Main and Prof. Dr. Harald Bauder, Director of the Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS)


Project description:

Neoliberal urban development has encouraged a proactive attitude towards branding ethno-cultural diversity. At the local level, branding affects the development and governance of ethnic neighborhoods. Ethno-cultural branding strategies are expected to differ between national and local contexts, depending on immigration histories and integration paradigms.

A comparative study of Berlin and Toronto examines the emergence, development, and spreading of ethno-cultural urban branding strategies. In contrast to the established tradition of neighborhood branding through Business Improvement Areas (BIA) in Toronto, Berlin only recently turned from a reactive to a resource-oriented approach towards migrants.

Theoretically, the project draws on the city branding discourse and on (re-)scaling as analytical concept to explore strategies and programs by different actors. In this way, the project will sketch a policy-centered as well as an actor-centered perspective. By investigating neighborhood and locally-based policies, and globally circulating approaches in a relational perspective, the project asks about the contradiction of the political objective of branding and the requirements of migrant entrepreneurs as research objects.

Methodologically, the project is based on a combined document and literature analysis, complemented by interviews with municipal politicians, BIA-managers, representatives of business promotion agencies, migrant entrepreneurs, and residents in both cities. Empirical activities in Toronto will focus on two BIA’s – the Gerrard India Bazaar and Chinatown Spadina – and the privately managed East Chinatown.


This project is realized in collaboration with the Ryerson Center for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and the Ryerson Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. For further inquiries please contact Dr. Antonie Schmiz:

We thank the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for funding this project through the Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience (P.R.I.M.E.) program.