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Secure in the Privacy of Your Own Nature: Political Ontology, Urban Nature and Home Ownership in Australia


Davison, A, Secure in the Privacy of Your Own Nature: Political Ontology, Urban Nature and Home Ownership in Australia, Housing and Home Unbound: Intersections in Economics, Environment and Politics in Australia, Routledge, N Cook, A Davison, L Crabtree (ed), Oxon, United Kingdom, pp. 99-115. ISBN 978-1-138-94897-6 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2016 Nicole Cook, Aidan Davison and Louise Crabtree

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Modernist accounts of cities as autonomous, tightly bound spaces from which nature has been expelled have been longstanding and widespread (Williams 1973). This distinction belongs to a network of ontological dualisms that set colonial-capitalist projects of modern progress apart from the worlds they sought to master (Plumwood 1993). This production of cities as unnatural space is now under challenge as part of conceptual and material dynamics in late-modern societies that are unsettling divisions between nature and culture (Latour 2004).

Long avoided as an oxymoron, the fi gure of urban nature has enabled new forms of dialogue across the social and natural sciences over the last three decades (Braun 2005; Heynen 2014; Wolch 2007). In the process, cities are being reconfi gured within regional and global geographies, calling into question the status of nonurban spaces and drawing attention to multiscalar webs of interaction and interdependence. This is to engage with urbanisation as a planetary phenomenon integral not just to capital accumulation, but to the future of life on earth. While now popular to conceive of as the Anthropocene, an epoch in which human action has planetary force, our time is more precisely understood as the Urbanocene, a prospect in which earthly possibilities are defi nitively urban (Gleeson 2015). And here the newly animated fi gure of urban nature takes on vital work, asserting that to declare our times urban is not thereby to declare them unnatural.

In this chapter I contribute to emerging research in more-than-human urbanism by offering a preliminary inquiry of the role of private home (and land) ownership in Australia in the shifting politics of urban nature.1 Capitalist discourses and practices of home ownership have been centrally implicated in the political, cultural and material boundaries of home in Australia. I begin by critically engaging the literature of urban political ecology, identifying within it a need for a relational ontology of home ownership. I then sketch the contours of home ownership in the history of Australian modernity, exploring its signifi cance in the ontological politics of urban nature. Of course, to suggest that home ownership is implicated in mutually constitutive relations between nature and society is to question received knowledge about many things, including cities. The modern dualism that underwrites discursive and material divisions between nature and city underwrites also the boundaries of the natural and the social sciences. This chapter thus contributes to the unbounding of research about housing and home by opening home ownership to inquiry about the politics that circulate in and through the production of urban natures.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:suburban nature, urban nature, relational ontology, Australian democracy
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Human geography
Research Field:Social geography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Davison, A (Associate Professor Aidan Davison)
ID Code:106047
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2016-01-26
Last Modified:2017-11-14

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