little arabia

Tucked into strip malls just a few miles west of Disneyland along Brookhurst Street is the scattered agglomeration of restaurants, markets, bakeries, butcher shops, hookah lounges, educational centers, hair salons, and clothing stores catering to groups who come from the Middle East and North Africa. Proliferating over the last twenty-five years, this Anaheim thoroughfare is colloquially known as Little Arabia. While lacking official designation by the city, the small strip of commerce operating in-between  gentlemen clubs, chain grocery stores, and fast food joints is supported by the nation’s largest Arab population who haphazardly reside throughout Southern California.  As processes of international geopolitical and global restructuring continue to influence immigration patterns of contemporary urban regions, this paper first examines the spatial compositions of Little Arabia to illustrate how suburban ethnic clusters influence ordinary landscapes. It then briefly discusses the development of Anaheim to reveal how the emergence of Little Arabia functions as an “ethnoanchor.” The final section subsequently  demonstrates why group labels are applied to distinguish cultural landscapes, and then illuminates the societal consequences that arise when using them.  Through interviews, observations, and content analysis, examining Little Arabia from the multidisciplinary lens of urban studies not only provides a textured account concerning California’s ethnic agglomerations, but also complicates the meaning of twenty-first century ethnoburbs.

photos by noah allison