Indigenous repossessions in urban environments: suggestions for new theoretical directions

Authors: Naama Blatman*, University of Sydney
Topics: Urban Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Racial Capitalism, Settler Colonialism, the City
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper builds on and extends my ongoing work exploring regimes of land and property in settler-colonial cities in Israel/Palestine and Australia. My aim is twofold: first, I assert that despite growing interest in urban structures of dispossession, scholars have yet to engage critically and conceptually with structures of repossession in cities. By and large, repossession is still understood in purely legalistic terms, rendering invisible forms of repossession that manifest outside courtrooms and inter/national tribunals. Second, I propose to understand forms of repossession that sit within capitalist political economies and those that take place ‘outside’ or irrespective of capitalist constraints as a continuum. What practices of repossession have in common, I claim, is not the disavowal of capitalism writ large but the disavowal of racialised outcomes that are delivered and perpetuated by the capitalist settler state.

I use three case studies – Palestinian citizens of Israel who purchase houses in the Jewish city of Karmiel, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who reclaim urban properties as land in Townsville and a Local Aboriginal Land Council that reclaimed a colonial prison as private property in Sydney – to re-think Indigenous repossession not vis-à-vis the state (as the reluctant provider of Indigenous repossession) but vis-à-vis the city. Thus, while repossession might bear little impact on the national recognition of Indigenous rights, it makes Indigenous owners (broadly defined) locally unignorable while retrieving some of their collective possessions in cities.

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