Nervous City Landscapes and the Colonial Cadastral Grid — ASN Events

Nervous City Landscapes and the Colonial Cadastral Grid (14731)

Sarah Prout 1
  1. The University of Western Australia, Perth

Though the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders now live in urban localities, postcolonial geographical scholarship in Australia has to date (with several notable exceptions), been predominantly focused on non-urban place and spaces. This paper draws on archeologist Denis Byrne’s incisive dissection of the deep colonizing practices within his discipline, to explore parallels in urban social geography and planning. For Byrne, the ‘colonial cadastral grid’ was an imperial mechanism employed to fix and control ‘nervous landscapes’. Aboriginal people’s ‘narratives of trespass’ revealed their adaptation to, and subversion of, this colonial grid. This paper draws Byrnes critique into the urban domain, examining the implications of urban spatial and socially imagined cadastral grids, with a particular focus on Perth. In particular, it examines differentiated Indigenous attachments to city spaces and how these various attachments and uses might produce mobilities and claims that heighten the anxieties Bryne describes. The paper concludes by exploring the roles geographers have and might assume in pursuing the generation of more productive conceptualisations of Aboriginal ‘presence’ in the city.