Silence in the city: precarity and peripherality

Dr Kathleen Flanagan1

1University Of Tasmania


This paper explores ‘the city’ through the lens of a Foucauldian conceptualisation of discourse. By ‘the city’, I refer to the abstracted ideal city of global consumer capitalism, but inevitably, the paper is about the city within which I am situated and from which I speak—Hobart. Hobart is increasingly encouraged to reconfigure itself as a global product for consumption by an affluent tourist market, and the tensions this has created have been widely discussed. But just as Hobart is being rewritten by the ordering tools of contemporary city discourse—the aesthetics of authenticity, the performance of lifestyle, competitive indices of liveability—so are other places around the globe, and so my argument has wider resonance. Using discourse analysis, I expose the systems of regulation and ordering of knowledge that make ‘the city’ possible. In doing so, I show how the discourse of the aspirational, branded, destination city is situated in relation to two central silences: the labour of the precariously-employed and the peripheral spaces of the ghettoised public housing estate. Giving voice to these silences in the city is, I argue, the first step towards a new and better way of living in cities.


Kathleen Flanagan is Deputy Director of the Housing and Community Research Unit at the University of Tasmania. Her research interests include social housing, disadvantage and problematic populations.

Experiments at the edge: ecological crisis, resource security, and core-periphery dynamics in guitar global production networks

Prof. Chris Gibson1, Dr. Andrew Warren1

1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


Disruptions to existing systems of provision arise from ecological crises and accompanying regulatory responses. Emblematic of Anthropocenic economic geographies, such disruptions challenge existing norms and practices, reconfiguring core-periphery relations. We illustrate from an ongoing project ‘following’ the guitar from musician to tree, encompassing manufacturing, resource processing, timber procurement and forest management. In guitar-making disruptions arise from resource scarcity. Heightened environmental regulation and restrictions on trading endangered timber species has forced upstream material resource suppliers and manufacturers to reassess methods and reevaluate practices. Traditional hubs of manufacturing, and dominant lead firms, have been slow to react. Meanwhile, amidst significant disruptions to established industry practices, significant innovations arise from ostensibly ‘peripheral’ actors in scattered places who experiment with new forestry techniques, alternative materials and collaborations with Indigenous resource owners. Conceptions of the peripheral thus shift once the analytical frame is questioned, and empirical scope widened ‘all the way out’ to the forest. Ecological crisis, regulatory agencies and resource worlds are brought deeper into the orbit of theorising global production networks. In the margins are found the unassuming and often overlooked characters responding to volatile circumstances, and in so doing, trialling new practices and challenging existing practices at the core.


Chris Gibson BA (Hons) PhD (Sydney), Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, Fellow of the Institute of Australian Geographers, Fellow of the Geographical Society of New South Wales. Professor of Human Geography at the University of Wollongong.

Low-tech industries, serious leisure seekers, and innovation in the economic peripheries

Dr Kirsten Martinus1

1University Of Western Australia, Perth, Australia


In 2012-13, the Australian beekeeping industry had an estimated gross value of $A88 million, with indirect pollination service to agriculture of $A4 to $A6 billion. This is the result of substantial industry changes over past decades. In Western Australian (WA), 39,000 bee hives produce 7.5 percent of the nation’s honey, worth $A30/kilogram from a previous $A3. Interest in the superior quality of WA honey has led to multimillions invested in industry and bee research, industry traineeships as well as a spike in hobbyist numbers. Nonetheless, beekeeping as a low-tech industry is seen to contribute little to national wealth or to economic change and innovation, attracting limited government or research support. This paper looks at recent industry developments through WA hobby and commercial beekeepers interviews. It contributes to user innovation literature, where consumers innovate on a service or product sold to them by a manufacturer. Drawing on the concept of the ‘serious leisure seeker’, it unpacks how hobbyist user innovations are transforming the industry through both product and social innovations generating benefit for manufacturers selling to local and global markets. It recommends more inclusive research and policy discourse on who is involved in developing low-tech industries on the economic peripheries.


Dr Kirsten Martinus is a Senior Research Fellow at UWA, focusing on the distribution of resources, innovation and economic competitiveness. She is on the board of the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Geographical Sciences and Geographical Research, and the co-convener of the Institute of Australian Geographers Economic Geography Study Group. She has won various competitive awards, Including a ARC DECRA examining innovation in the peripheries and Discovery on the globalisation of Australian cities. She is well published in leading journals.

The peculiar case of toll roads in eastern Australia

Prof. Phillip O’Neill1

1Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia


The emergence of Transurban as the monopoly controller of motorways, bridges and tunnels in Mebourne, Sydney and Brisbane is distinctive in many ways. Transurban is equal in efficiency to any motorway operator in the world. Its corporate structure is unusual and innovative. Its assets are overwhelmingly intangible. It is deliberately leveraged to the hilt, although its ratings are very favourable. Its share register is dominated by new savings aggregators, especially superannuation funds, keen for the returns on offer. It has captured an economic sector quickly and with little regulatory oversight.

How should economic geography interpret Transurban? A Northern political economy account might present Transurban as an advanced form of financialised neoliberalism penetrating deep into urban life; but this would confine too much geography to context. An account of Transurban as the product of Australia’s bold late-20th century restructuring might construct Transurban as a ground-breaking experiment in hybridity involving the state and new forms of private finance; but this would push aside worrying urban and environmental outcomes.

The paper explores the interpretative options of this remarkable case with a view to highlighting the tensions in contemporary economic geography between accounting for the peculiar and formulating the general.


Phillip O’Neill is Professor of Economic Geography at Western Sydney University.

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