Exploring ambiguity: Aboriginal identity negotiation in southwestern Sydney

Yuriko Yamanouchi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There has been little discussion on urban Indigenous identity in post-settler societies. However, in the scarce works which exist on this issue there are some remarkably common traits. For most Indigenous people, identity has primarily involved kinship ties associated with their perceived place of origin. In the city, Indigenous people encounter other Indigenous people who cannot be identified through kinship ties; in this situation, organizations dealing with Indigenous issues provide ways of connecting nonrelated Indigenous people, in line with a notion of 'pan-Indigeneity'. This pan-Indigeneity is not only based on their experience in the city, but also is influenced by the 'antique' image of Indigenous people created through contact with European settlers as well as the common cultural mores and traits which Indigenous people share. With these different kinds of identities, urban Indigenous identity has been described as 'fluid' or 'ambiguous'. The relationship between these identities has not been much examined. This paper explores the ambiguous and dynamic nature of Aboriginal identity in southwestern Sydney. Even though they are not related, Aboriginal people can usually recognize each other as 'Aboriginal' through certain cultural mores and traits. However, there are some who, although claiming to be Aboriginal, who do not share these cultural mores and traits. Their presence gives rise to tension and conflict revolving around the concept of Aboriginality. Through an ethnographical examination of the process of accommodating nonrelated Aboriginal people, this paper reveals how different kinds of identities are related to each other in urban situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Planning A: Economy and Space
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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