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The fringedweller's struggle: Cultural politics and the force of history

Delmege, Sharon (2000) The fringedweller's struggle: Cultural politics and the force of history. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Historically, indigenous voices have been excluded and spoken for by an Australian community that has assumed the authority to determine their right to speak, their right to land and identity. Until recently, the major sources of knowledge about indigenous peoples has been of a secondary nature and there has been little effort or perceived need to access indigenous points of view. Now, in the last decade of the twentieth century, Aboriginal viewpoints (on a range of issues) are being increasingly heard. This dissertation examines the struggle of the Fringe Dwellers of the Swan Valley on Western Australia for land and cultural rights as a significant instance of an indigenous ‘victory’ against dominant social forces.

Efforts by the Fringe Dwellers to secure title to urban land from the Government of Western Australian, an extraordinary process of intervention in itself, provides the discursive focus of this thesis. The chain of events involved - political and legal actions, various forms of writing, the tactics of cultural struggle - and the changing conditions of possibility existing for effective intervention by the Fringe Dwellers, is examined here within an interdisciplinary perspective. As this chain of events is so thoroughly defined and articulated in terms of Race, the thesis contextualises their struggle in terms of the history of British perceptions about Others prior to first contact in 1788. Because History matters, it charts changes to the significance of race, that arose with the shift to modernity and coincided with the colonisation of Australia, to illustrate how racialized discourses have been central to the changing constructions of Aboriginality.

Specific instances of cultural ‘construction’ are examined to clarify the formation of the hybrid 'fringedweller' category as a particular space for indigenous identity. The various stands taken by the Fringe Dwellers are seen as a complex narrative of contestation with 'Lockridge'. The thesis also considers the way in which the Fringe Dweller’s quest is discursively constructed by the dominant non-indigenous community through an analysis of media reports. Finally, via a reading of fringedweller, the thesis seeks to show how, although situated as 'other', their spokesperson Robert Bropho is able to actively engage a variety of discursive strategies that enable the ‘fringedwelling’ experience to be speakable (in cultural terms) and, to some extent, politically effective in a local context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Miller, Toby
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