Development and Urbanization
Mostly known for its industrial character, the central Italian city of Prato has recently been defined in the national press as the ‘true multi-ethnic [Italian] city’. Among its culturally diverse population, the number of Chinese-born has drawn attention for its astounding growth rate. In June 2017, the local Chinese population was estimated to reach 19.814, and one out of six under-18-year-olds living in Prato is now of Chinese descent. The majority of Chinese entrepreneurial activities is concentrated in a mixed commercial and residential hub called ‘Macrolotto 0’.
Macrolotto 0 has often been depicted as an inward-looking cultural enclave; however, since June 2017, the neighbourhood has experienced a positive comeback when the municipality launched an ambitious Master Plan characterised by the promotion of a brand identity based on the image of Prato as a ‘modern multicultural metropolis’. The Plan includes a requalification project for Macrolotto 0, which has occasionally started to be referred to in the Plan as ‘creative district’.
In this presentation, I will situate this neighbourhood in a context of urban change and I will shed light on the mechanisms through which ‘Chineseness’ is managed within the branding initiative. This paper draws on material collected during 8 months of observation and collaboration with a number of stakeholders involved in cultural activities organised in Macrolotto 0. These data will be used to answer the following question: does the process of branding the neighbourhood as ‘creative’ increase the possibility of de-ethnicise it or does it, on the contrary, strengthen its alterity?