I made the trip out from Manhattan to Flushing mid-May. It was the first time I’d seen the neighbourhood in the summer. When I got off at the last stop on the 7 and emerged into the heat, I was surprised to find myself transported back to summers in China and Hong Kong. The humidity coupled with the smell of dim sum from the street cart, and a community of people with features like mine, put my mind in a nostalgic state.
My research started out with an interest in this transportive quality of places. In particular, I found myself drawn to Asian-American places. A restaurant, a grocery store, a street, or even a suburb had the ability to bring an entire homeland, miles away, to wherever I was in the present. The haptic sensations of one place simulated another that I knew and understood in memory, while also somehow remaining uniquely its own.
In the following weeks, I will carry out an autoethnographic study of specific places in Flushing that strongly evoke this transportive feeling. The focus will be placed on recognizable Asian-American typologies of place including mini food courts, micro-malls, butcher and fish stores, massage chair pit-stops, foot massage parlours, electronic repair stores, hair salons, herbal medicine shops, and others. The study will be done through drawing and mapping, writing, photography and filming, and informal interviews. The aim is to see how the qualities in these unique places can be captured in the medium of film to reveal a more nuanced way of representing the Asian-American diasporic experience.