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Sylheti Settlement in Whitechapel Road

Posted by Shlomit Flint on Feb. 28, 2017

In fieldwork carried out in 2011-12 twenty-one interviewees explained the need to preserve the identification of Whitechapel Road with the Sylheti community as a reaction to the gentrification process.

Saba (53) was preoccupied with the possible loss of individual cultural identity and the uprootedness of a society that is more and more like a market in which nothing prevents the stronger from dominating the weaker: "I am worried about an oncoming blending of local culture, as other multinational chains follow Starbucks into the area and attempt to gentrify it with their bland corporate décor and homogenous facades. We must defend our area and culture from taking over".

Puja (34) said: "I see Shoreditch, about a mile from here, that every venue has the same hipster formula applied. There's no place for identity anymore".

Abida (26) claimed: "It feels like the East-End becomes a playground for the rich and Japanese. We are worried that property prices soar pushing us, the original residents, out. We’d better sell inside."

As of 2002, indirect collaborations succeeded in strengthening the Sylheti presence on Whitechapel Road. Collective behaviour thus attracted Sylheti newcomers. The area designated as Sylheti territory was marked by its own market prices, strengthening the community members' sense of place, and improving their ability to cope with local challenges.

This is an extract from a paper titled 'A decision not to decide: A new challenge for planning', to be published in European Planning Studies.