‘Hot’ issues, passionate bodies and ‘fiery’ placards: The ‘March in March’ and emerging publics in Darwin, Australia — ASN Events

‘Hot’ issues, passionate bodies and ‘fiery’ placards: The ‘March in March’ and emerging publics in Darwin, Australia (14772)

Michele Lobo 1
  1. Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia

This paper focuses on the ‘March in March’ in Darwin, a public protest on a hot, humid Saturday morning. A loose group of urban citizens eager to express their anger, frustration and outrage with government policies and development initiatives was mobilised through face-to-face meetings as well as on-line forums such as facebook. The event attracted ‘local legends’, community leaders and artistes, but also families, young mothers, senior citizens and newcomers to the city. Assembling in Bennett Park near Parliament House, sweaty bodies walked together down Smith Street mall with home-made placards and banners. Arriving at Raintree Park, bodies chanted and clapped as they listened to passionate speeches on a range of issues that included questioning the ongoing victimisation, dispossession and racialisation of Aboriginal peoples, the discrimination and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, and potentially harmful development projects in Darwin harbour. In thinking about emerging publics, such performative acts draw attention to human agency to think about a progressive and transformative politics. While negative affects move and stir bodies, it is love and shared belonging in multiple human and more-than-human worlds that can contribute to an affirmative politics of affect and urban becoming. This paper argues that in such becoming, material things such as banners and placards, verbal expressions such as speeches, jokes, limericks or chants play a role in exploring emerging publics. The paper draws on participant observation, participatory videos, photographs, interviews and on-line comments to argue for an affirmative and material politics of affect that  contributes to the urban becoming of Darwin, as the ‘Arafura pearl’ and the ‘jewel of Australia’ celebrated in the Territory song of heritage value.