An Urban Cultural Interface: (Re)thinking Urban Anti-capitalist Politics and the City in relation to Indigenous Struggles

Lara Daley1

1University Of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW


This paper is based on research undertaken as a participant/researcher in the G20 counter-mobilisations and its two main gatherings, Decolonization Before Profit and the Peoples’ Convergence, in Meanjin/Brisbane in 2014. Using the time-places of the counter-mobilisations as a thinking ground, I engage the need to rethink urban anti-capitalist politics and urban geographical undertsandings in relation to Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies and struggles. I do this from my position as a non-Indigenous person, learning to learn my place, relationships and responsibilities situated as both a social movement participant and researcher on stolen lands and Indigenous Country. Taking direction from Indigenous thinking and critique in Indigenous/settler colonial contexts, I bring Martin Nakata’s conceptualisation of the dynamic and multi-dimensional interactions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous domains to rethinking and re-engaging the urban as sets of time-place coordinates and relationships produced through and as ongoing colonisation and Indigenous presence. In doing so, I suggest that approaching the urban as a cultural interface offers a way for both urban geography and radical politics to be situated and to struggle in and over the city addressing migrant-coloniser complicities, engaging Indigenous struggles on their own terms and attending to the more-than-human and Country in and as the city.


Lara recently submitted her PhD thesis in Human Geography at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is a casual academic and a member of Yandaarra, a Gumbaynggirr and non-Gumbaynggirr research collective working to build a better understanding of Gumbaynggirr-led caring for Country on Gumbaynggirr Country (mid-north coast NSW).

Restraint, Surveillance & Space: Spatio-historical perspectives on the operations of colonialism through technologies of control.

Mr Max Mitropoulos1, Ms Anna Carlson1

1University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


What becomes visible when sets of technologies deployed throughout colonial occupation are thought of historically in terms of space? To examine this question, we draw upon our individual theoretical approaches developed in our PhD theses in order to provide a conceptual foundation for taking “spatio-historical perspectives” to the operations of colonialism through various technologies of control, such as surveillance, restraint, and so on. We propose that through addressing the function of a given set of technologies through space it is possible to render visible the way that colonialism produces, sustains, consolidates and transforms spaces of existence across time. The various ‘frontiers’ and compartments of space that Fanon evokes in his description of colonialism are made more explicit through this style of approach. It is here that the relationality and intersectionality of spaces of existence can begin to be more effectively grappled with both in and beyond the colonial setting. We propose that taking a spatio-historical perspective helps to widen the focus beyond localised sites of violence and subjugation of First Nations people, and gives a more comprehensive view of the entangled plural spatial existences that are produced and reproduced in the colonial context.


Max Mitropoulos is a descendent of the Kullilli people. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. He is based at UQ’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health. Max’s research interest is in interrogating the ordering of spatial existence within and beyond the colonial context with a particular focus on technology.

Anna is a radio producer, illustrator and researcher, currently based in Meanjin/Brisbane. She is an organiser of the Brisbane Free University, a co-producer of 4zzz (102.1fm) program Radio Reversal and a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. As a white settler woman, living on unceded Jagera country, her PhD research uses an intersectional, spatial standpoint approach to consider the function of surveillance as a tool of colonialism in Brisbane.

Urban indigenous invisibility in the neoliberal age

A/Prof. Deirdre Howard-wagner


In the era of neoliberal urbanism, many longstanding indigenous organisations in the cities of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America face new challenges. There are those whose prime locality in the city has come under threat because it has become a ‘problem’ zone within the city, such as the Vancouver Friendship Centre, which is located on East Hastings Street ‘in the heart of Vancouver’s inner-city neighbourhood’. Others have been pushed out of prime city localities by encroaching gentrification, such as the American Indian Centre in Chicago, which operated out of the former Masonic temple near Ashland and Wilson avenues for 50 years. The highly successful Awabakal Aboriginal Co-operative (Awabakal Co-op) in the Australian south-eastern coastal city of Newcastle is an exception. It has managed to maintain its place in a central locality on the thoroughfare of the inner-city harbourfront suburb of Wickham in the reclaimed industrial dockland area. It has occupied this locality for over thirty years. The city has renewed and gentrified around it.

The paper explores how city spaces of the 21st Century operate as sites of ongoing social struggle, returning to invisibility in the present moment. Invisibility concerns how today the success of urban indigenous development is hidden in plain sight, but it also involves a form of reclaiming of Aboriginal culture and a re-territorialisation of land within the city, which challenge ‘“hegemonic constructions of place and identity” that restrict Aboriginal peoples to land outside of urban spaces’ (Howard and Proulx 2011: 5). It makes visible the localised, situated struggle that involves indigenous peoples’ active engagement in exercising their right to the city through the reconstruction and decolonisation of urban spaces and a redefining of the relationships that structures the politics of urban self-determination in Newcastle. The paper discusses the such issues in a critical way by drawing on the various conceptual tools such as thinking around settler colonialism in cities, public spaces and prefigurative urban arrangements, commodified Indigenous knowledges and histories in the context of neoliberal cities and race, racialisation and whiteness in cities.


Associate Professor Deirdre Howard-Wagner

Senior Fellow

Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University

Do housing markets reproduce logics of settler-colonial dispossession? Evidence from the current land boom in Australian cities

Dr Francis Markham1

1Centre For Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


It is indisputable that the establishment of private markets for stolen land played a crucial role in consolidating the colonial invasion of Australia. The racist nature of colonial land markets was intensified by legal and extralegal barriers that prevented First Nations people from land ownership until the second half of the twentieth century. However, from the 1960s, legal barriers to private land ownership were incrementally removed and limited land rights were granted, commencing an historical era discursively characterised by formal equality and, for a period, government support for Indigenous self-determination.

In this paper, I draw on literature from the disciplines of Indigenous studies and urban political economy to question the conventional historiography that expediently locates the settler-colonial dispossession of First Nations people in the past. Through a quantitative analysis of Census records, longitudinal surveys and property sales data in Australian cities over the last decade, I ask whether and to what extent private land markets reproduce the settler-colonial logics of First Nations dispossession. In particular, I examine the role of the urban land boom in disproportionately distributing material wealth to settlers, thereby entrenching existing settler-Indigenous power differentials.


Francis Markham is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University. Integrating critical geographic theory with quantitative data and methods, he has published on the spatial political economy of the contemporary gambling and tourism industries, and Indigenous social policy.

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