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Toronto's Little India: A Brief Neighbourhood History

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posted on 21.05.2021, 15:56 by Harald Bauder, Angelica Suorineni
Preface:
This historical survey of Toronto’s Little India neighbourhood began in November 2009, with an email circulating among faculty members of Ryerson University with research interests in immigration and settlement. In this email, Laura Thomas of the Riverdale Immigrant Women's Centre (RIWC) requested assistance to conduct a neighbourhood survey of the Gerrard-Coxwell area: “We are located in such a diverse cultural and physical landscape, and are interested in understanding our history of immigrant settlement patterns”. The ultimate aim would be to provide the community with historical, geographical, social and cultural information as a resource for local revitalization and economic development, community engagement and support of the arts and environmental groups.
In an initial meeting with Nuzhath Leedham, the executive director of RIWC, Harald Bauder learned about a “cultural mapping project” that was conducted earlier in the year in Chinatown, and which RIWC sought to replicate for the Gerrard-Coxwell area. After a closer look at this project, it became clear that replicating Chinatowns’ “cultural mapping project” was not feasible, given the resources available and university-based constraints on research ethics. Instead, we decided to conduct a more “conservative” study of Little India’s neighbourhood history. Although the term “mapping project” continued to circulate through the community to describe this survey, our project is more about compiling and summarizing a neighbourhood history.
As a resident of the Little India neighbourhood since November 2008, Harald Bauder’s contribution to this report is inspired by William Bunge’s (1971) book Fitzgerald, a groundbreaking work of humanist geography, presenting the history, development and contemporary challenges of a particular neighbourhood of Detroit. Angelica Suorineni spent countless hours in the library and archives as a graduate student researcher. Although it would be preposterous to claim that this brief report could be of similar sophistication, scope or impact as Fitzgerald, we hope, like Bunge, that it will serve the community.

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