Panel 12: Feral Populations

Feral Policies for Housing Repair and Maintenance
Dr. Liam Grealy and Assoc. Prof. Tess Lea
Housing for Health Incubator
The University of Sydney

Feral students: rubbish and policing of residential life at the University of Otago
Dr. Holly Randell-Moon
Senior lecturer in the School of Indigenous Australia Studies
Charles Sturt University

Green spaces, black communities, and environmentalism as a tool of displacement in Austin, Texas
Stephanie Webb and Jamie DeAngelo
Decipher City

Comments 7

  1. Hello everyone, this is Rob Fletcher, chair for this Feral Populations session. Thanks to all presenters for their very provocative contributions. I would like to invite responses from the audience before I offer my own thoughts on the session. And please remember to check out other sessions taking place this week as well!

    Best, Rob

  2. You know, the lengths people will go to justify questionable public housing whether urban or rural never cease to amaze me. Dr. Grealy and Dr. Lea, thank you for presenting the truth of how dilapidation in rural areas is just as significant even though it is less concentrated.

  3. Kia ora koutou,

    Thanks so much for your presentations Liam and Tess, and Stephanie and Jamie. I think my presentation discussed a population that is the inverse of your case studies – a privileged group implicitly encouraged by urban planning and university governance to trash space. It brings into stark relief how far white people can go to destroy infrastructure without fearing serious repercussions.

    Liam and Tess, I really liked your discussion of houses as interstitial spaces between inside/outside, nature/ society, and their role as a membrane that coheres a number of capillary functions of infrastructure such as water and electricity.

    Stephanie and Jamie, your local examination of environmental racism was really insightful. The quote from the organiser recognising they had participated in gentrification was pretty astounding! What was the parks department’s response to your report?

    Ngaa mihi,

    1. So, I met with the Parks and Recreation director and presented the study which supposedly made its way around the department. The reason we have not posted an update to what was said is that 1) we have heard nothing from the department since that meeting and the occasional chance meetings after that; and 2) the City of Austin has become notorious for receiving unpaid labor from populations of color and not responding. Therefore, we are working on scholastically moving away from specifically studying the City of Austin while continuing to focus on how environmental racism has consistently affected people of color.

  4. Hi all,

    Thanks for the great presentations Holly, and Stephanie and Jamie. And to the Feral organisers – it’s a great conference and I’ve really enjoyed the talks I’ve listened to so far.

    Holly, this is a really great case study for thinking together a number of cultural studies’ key concerns: youth subcultures, education and governance, waste and capitalist production, and so on. I remember walking through those neighbourhoods on the south of the university when I visited in 2016 and the signifiers of student housing were visually obvious – couches in front yards, rubbish and beer bottles, etc. It’s interesting to hear about the ways the university tries to exploit a version of this culture for its branding, while otherwise drawing on disciplinary practices to contain it (including with the religious connotations of aiming to extract penance!).

    I’d be interested in hearing your comparative analysis of strategies undertaken by CSU to manage/police similar issues. The University of Sydney continues to face scandals in its colleges, but no longer has to face these issues in private accommodation adjacent to its Camperdown campus – the Sydney market has simply priced out most undergraduate students as potential tenants. That said, similar strategies to manage the geography of consumption have been implemented in Sydney (the lockout laws), which have shifted the nighttime leisure economy towards the university (or from the city and Kings Cross to Newtown/Enmore, etc.), with implications for the safety of residents in historically queer communities. Your paper got me thinking about my work on paperless arrests, and how common it seems to implement spatial strategies to shift undesirable practices to urban peripheries of liminal/unsafe spaces, in contrast to the difficulty (lack of desire?) of regulating the alcohol industry in particular. In the Northern Territory, this has been evident in the challenge of instituting a minimum price floor on alcohol or restricting trading hours.

    Stephanie and Jamie, I really enjoyed this paper (and the Decipher City website!). The discussion of parks and issues of access got me thinking about the Australian context and beaches specifically. There are similar racialised dynamics of contested access to beach spaces, grounded in long settler colonial histories, both in terms of who has claimed and purchased property adjacent to beaches and dominant nationalist mythologies attached to those spaces – namely, a shift in the early twentieth century from privileging popular cultural representations of the outlaw bushranger (related to settler expansion) to the figure of the lifeguard (related to protecting the borders and the White Australia policy). This continues to play out on beaches today, most notably in 2005 and the Cronulla race riots. I liked your comments that there are not only issues of access related to parks, but also notions of ‘proper use’, which prioritise certain sorts of activities and persons over others.

    Your paper also got me thinking about similar issues in New Orleans, where I’m staying at the moment. The green dots maps controversy following Katrina was the most obvious example of how moves to establish parklands can literally erase communities of colour. In more contemporary terms, though, I was thinking about some current efforts related to the Greater New Orleans Water Plan. As far as I understand it (which is only superficially), this is largely an effort directed at shifting from the reliance on the system of pipes and pumps towards water retention infrastructures. So, for example, they’re talking about the creation of ‘green streets’ and ‘blue streets’, where areas such as the neutral ground in the middle of roads are used for floodwater retention. This has the potential to benefit communities of colour, who for similar reasons to those you’ve outlined in Austin (redlining, restrictive covenants, etc.), have been forced to buy and rent in areas of lower ground, which are sinking further below sea level each year. Of course, the devil is in the detail as to where those infrastructure dollars go and the ways communities are able, or not, to direct the spending. And to what happens to those communities once the new infrastructure is embedded, and its potential effects on property prices and residents ability to afford to stay.

    Thanks again for the great panel. Thoroughly enjoyable. Liam

    1. Oh, Katrina and its renovation have been fascinating…and very similar to what is currently happening in Puerto Rico. It is one of the reasons why people are now studying disaster capitalism and its affects on marginalized communities. The United States is very good as profiting off of marginalized communities in the form of “government aid” while making land available for global investors at theft rates, because apparently stealing from the Indigenous populations was insufficiently horrific.

  5. Hi Liam,

    Thanks for your response! There’s so many areas to take an analysis of the student geographies into but branding and spatial containment were the two key foci that seemed the most pertinent. I do think there’s similarities with your paperless arrest article, in terms of how populations (particularly homeless people in the Octagon) are moved on from public space without actually having committed any offences. Here’s the link to Liam’s article btw:

    It’s interesting that you mention Sydney Uni because that was often my benchmark for how permissive Otago Uni is of student behaviour, like I would say to myself, ‘wow this would not fly at Sydney Uni.’ For instance, the students dressing up in Red Face in the Hyde Street party flyer that was shown in my presentation, myself and another colleague formally complained about this and we were told not to judge ‘student freedom of expression’. By contrast, my first day at CSU, students were severely disciplined for similar behaviour. I haven’t seen much stuff on the role of student governance and student culture in effecting urban planning and night time economies so I think there’s scope for further research on this.

    Kind regards,

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