Book Review Preview: Multicultural Cities

By Carlos Teixeira

Mohammad Abdul Qadeer, Multicultural Cities: Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016).

Both the United States and Canada are important immigrant-receiving countries. Their long histories of accommodating multiracial and multiethnic populations have led to their inclusion in lists of “countries of immigrants.” Like many other cities in North America and in the Western world, Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles, the largest metropolises of Canada and the United States, have become major “ports of entry” to immigrants, including refugees, and “crucibles of multiculturalism.” These three cities have been described as multicultural cites “where the multiplicity of cultures thrives and diversity of ethnicities as well as lifestyles reigns, supported by civil rights” (p. 3).

This growing, ethnically and racially diverse immigrant population has played a key role in shaping the social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes of these cities in the modern era. Despite this, comparative scholarly work on multicultural cities in North America is scant. In this long overdue book, these three key cities in North America, and, for that matter in the world, provide excellent laboratories for the study of multiculturalism and for how ethnic and racial diversity affects urban structures and processes.

In a time of hopes and promises as well as challenges and tensions that have increasingly come to define multicultural cities, Qadeer’s timely study makes a very strong contribution to scholarship on these cities in the North American context. As noted by the author, this book is an inquiry into the structures, institutions, and processes of three recognized multicultural cities, namely Toronto – a Canadian city that embodies multiculturalism as policy — as well as New York, and Los Angeles, American cities with long traditions of immigration and pluralism. This book aims to describe and explain those features that represent the influence of multiculturalism. A key question guiding this study is how a city’s ethno-racial diversity is “embedded in its geographic structure, social organization, economic activities, and political and symbolic institutions, all as a matter of rights” (p. xv).  In answering this question, Qadeer provides an invaluable perspective on how these three ethnically and racially diverse cities “function and cohere, accommodating differences and integrating diverse cultures” (p. 6).

Qadeer offers an impressive level of historical and empirical detail about these cities’ histories, demographic structures, urban economic and social geographies, ethnic entrepreneurship, community life, political incorporation, urban planning, and changing urban landscapes. He brings to bear an in-depth knowledge about multicultural cities, their urban institutions and structures and insights into ways these institutions and structures are evolving and cultural differences negotiated. Drawing insights from a rich, multi-method approach to data collection, Qadeer has benefited from a diversity of scholarly and analytical studies, U.S. and Canadian census data as well as other demographic and economic government sources, newspaper articles, ethnographic accounts, participant observation and interviews with key informants. He achieves his main objectives and clearly answers the main research questions guiding this book.

The full review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Carlos Teixeira
University of British Columbia
carlos.teixeira@ubc.ca

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