'Whose city/whose Fremantle?' : reconceptualising space for an open politics of place
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The notion of space being eroded by time underpins the dominant formulations of globalisation premised on time-space compression. The consequences have included the announcement of the ‘end of geography’. More recently, a spatial turn has repositioned the concept of space at the forefront of Human Geography. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the ongoing theoretical reconceptualisation of space with an empirical study of the contested port city of Fremantle. Set within the broader metropolitan area of Western Australia’s capital city, Perth, Fremantle is simultaneously constructed by local and external actors as a ‘city under threat’ and as a ‘city in decline’. It is the dominant port city of Western Australia and differs in many ways, historically, physically, culturally and economically from its modern, suburban surrounds. Using the question ‘whose city’ in my interactions and observations within Fremantle, I began to see contestations for space emerging.This thesis explores four controversies pertinent to the ongoing battles to define (the meaning of spaces within) Fremantle. The forces of change impacting on Fremantle include de-industrialisation, gentrification, urban entrepreneurialism and heritage construction; however these challenges have served as contingencies which have enabled the opening up of these controversies to other voices. My participant observations, overlayed with a discourse analysis of content from the local Fremantle Herald newspaper across the decade 2000 to 2010, have allowed me to critically engage with these local political controversies. What I found is that, if space is reconceptualised not as a fixed surface but as relational, contested and always in process, then no one group or individual can ever truly claim ownership of or an identity for Fremantle. Consequently what is at issue are the local terms by which competing groups and individuals stake their claims to the ownership or the meaning of the city.Drawing on the work of Doreen Massey, Nigel Thrift and Matthew Rofe, this thesis aims to contribute to the ongoing reconceptualisation of space occurring in contemporary post structuralist scholarship.
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