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Antarctic Cities: from Gateways to Custodial cities


Salazar, JF and James, P and Leane, E and Magee, L, Antarctic Cities: from Gateways to Custodial cities, ARC Research Project Report, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, Australia, pp. 1-191. (2021) [Government or Industry Research]

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The cities of Cape Town, Christchurch, Hobart, Punta Arenas, and Ushuaia are formally recognized international gateway cities through which flows most travel to the Antarctic region. All significant engagement with the South Polar region is co-ordinated through them. By geographical placement and historical contingency, these cities have a special connection to their bioregions to the south. They are the most connected to the Antarctic in the world. They have become important scientific hubs where the diplomatic and logistical co-operation underpinning most of the world’s interactions with the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean take place. Through these cities, Antarctica has exercised a powerful hold on the global imagination since the late nineteenth century.

In 2009, these five cities came together to sign a document, the first of its kind, the Statement of Intent between the Southern Oceanic Rim Gateway Cities to the Antarctic. The agreement invoked the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty, outlining in-principle support for knowledge exchanges and ‘promot[ing] the enhancement of peaceful and cooperative relations between signatory nations’ (Sciurano, et al., 2009). Although the statement expired 18 months after it was signed, in the period since, the ‘Antarctic city’ status of several of the cities has been reinforced by policy papers at all levels of government that put forward visions for enhancing this place-identification (Leane, et al., 2021).

Today, the Antarctic region faces unprecedented challenges. These Southern Oceanic Rim cities, individually and as a group, are in a position to play an important role in defining how Antarctica is imagined, discursively constructed, and vicariously experienced. This requires elaboration of the more conventional roles they have played as ‘gateway cities’, portals for goods and services (Hall, 2000). As this report shows, these five cities are much more than gateways. They are intimately connected to the south in ways - historical, cultural, political, affective - that exceed the logistical and transport function implied in the notion of gateway. With the ‘ice continent’ taking on a new centrality in global public consciousness in the Anthropocene, these cities’ relationship with the region to their south is likely to become an even more valuable part of their urban identity. As the future of the Antarctic hangs in delicate balance, this research project argues that these cities are key to securing the future of this fragile region.

Antarctic gateway cities are urban centres that can embody the values associated with Antarctica - international co-operation, scientific innovation, environmental protection - and act as global stewards of the South Polar region. As Antarctic custodial cities these urban centres can strengthen an existing interlinked southern-rim network, to better learn from and benefit each other. The project has sought to shift the emphasis on the role and responsibilities of nation-states in Antarctica and pay attention to the roles and responsibilities of these five cities formally recognized as the Antarctic gateway cities. Most importantly, the Antarctic Cities project has sought to summarize this change in conception and function by interchanging ‘gateway’ with ‘custodian’. In this context, it seeks to inform decision-makers and citizens on how their Antarctic gateway cities can best effect a cultural, political, ecological, and economic transition towards becoming Antarctic custodial cities.

Item Details

Item Type:Government or Industry Research
Keywords:Antarctic policy, custodian cities, gateway cities, Hobart, Tasmania, urban relations
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Human geography
Research Field:Cultural geography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Leane, E (Professor Elizabeth Leane)
ID Code:150096
Year Published:2021
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP160100210)
Deposited By:English
Deposited On:2022-05-20
Last Modified:2022-05-20

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