Relational Repossession: Property as Land in Urban Australia

Dr Naama Blatman-thomas1

1The University Of Sydney


Repossession of land by Indigenous people is commonly understood as a legal act that unfolds within the confines of state apparatuses. But for many Indigenous urbanites, legal repossession is both impossible and irrelevant due to their histories of dispossession and dislocation. Moreover, while land repossession in Australia is predominantly non-urban, I demonstrate that land is also reclaimed within cities. Urban repossession of land, considered here as relational, rather than legal, challenges the model of private ownership by asserting the cultural value of property as land. While the property order continues to dispossess Indigenous urbanites, relational repossession invokes an alternative ontology of property based not on ownership, but on usage. Relational repossession thereby retrieves Indigenous identity through acts of territorial emplacement that compel relinquishment of non-Indigenous properties.


A lecturer in urban geography at the University of Sydney, Naama’s research is both historical and ethnographic in nature. Her work explores issues of Indigenous rights, mobilties and belongings, as well as land, property and housing in settler-colonial cities in Australia and Israel/Palestine.

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