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.

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