Frontier imaginings and subversive Indigenous spatialities

Sarah Prout*, Richard Howitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


One of the most powerful and enduring aspects of publicly projected Anglo-Australian national identities is part of what [Howitt, R., 2001. Frontiers borders, edges: liminal challenges to the hegemony of exclusion. Australian Geographical Studies 39, 233-245.] has referred to as frontier imaginings: the carving out of the Australian physical and socio-cultural landscape into familiar, settled, and productive spaces. These frontier imaginaries have been leveraged to exact social control and 'zealously order rural space' [Philo, C., 1992. Neglected rural geographies: a review. Journal of Rural Studies 8, 193-207, 197]. Government policy has historically been imbued with frontier imaginaries, privileging population movements that are constructed as appropriately bounded, and disciplining those which are not. Much Indigenous mobility falls into the latter category. This paper tells a story of competing rationalities about the purpose and nature of rural 'settlement', both past and present, and the implications of these rationalities for contemporary Indigenous population dynamics. In so doing, it creates a discursive space for examining the cultural content and hidden assumptions in constructions of appropriate 'settlement patterns'. Ultimately, it speaks of spatial struggles across the Australian geographical and temporal landscape. It also opens windows onto the fragile geographies of co-existence that need to be engaged with to shift the discourses of rural livelihood and well being toward discourses of accommodation, recognition and sustainable ways of being together.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-403
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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