Re-orientating that which holds up – property and displacement in Sydney

Authors: Pratichi Chatterjee*, University of Sydney
Topics: Urban Geography, Legal Geography
Keywords: Displacement, Property, Gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper I walk through public housing residents’ anticipatory fears of dispossession and displacement in the suburbs of Waterloo and Redfern in inner west Sydney. Historically the suburbs have been home to low income white, Lebanese, Chinese and Aboriginal communities. Redfern in particular, was a hotbed of Aboriginal political activism dating back to the 1960s. Over the last two decades the areas have experienced a common pattern of gentrification, transitioning them into a middle-class white present. I try to understand this process by drawing on qualitative evidence from Aboriginal narratives of Redfern’s transformation using online media sources, and from the interviews that I have conducted with public housing tenants in Waterloo, who are anticipating displacement following the announcement of their estate’s renewal in 2015. In light of Davidson’s (2009) call to pay attention to the lived experience of space in gentrification processes, I consider displacement not as physical relocation, but as a loss of property or orientation, that is effected by dismantling and re-orientating the physical and social elements that hold up people’s belonging over a place and to a broader whole. In doing so I turn to Sarah Ahmed (2006), Sarah Keenan (2015) and Davina Cooper’s (2006) scholarship, informed by perspectives of queer theory, critical race theory and critical legal geography. I will also hint at the temporal aspects of dispossession that precede the actual loss of place and property, and that manifest in the appropriation of residents’ time, labour and agency in the production of space.

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