Of old and new : the social texts and messages conveyed by Australian universities
conference contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Bronwyn FredericksBronwyn Fredericks
De Certeau's (1984) book, 'The Practice of Everyday Life', constructs the notion of belonging as a sentiment which develops over time through everyday activities. For de Certeau, simple everyday activities are part of the process of appropriation and territorialisation. He suggests that, over time, belonging and attachment are established and built on memory, knowledge and the experiences of everyday activities. Applying to universities the work of de Certeau (1984) and others who write in the fields of social geography, spaciality and urban design can lead to multiple ways of understanding the cultural meanings inscribed within universities. Furthermore, it can highlight how universities can be embedded with an array of politics. For example, the physical sites and appearances of universities can act as social texts that convey messages of belonging and welcome, or exclusion and domination, and produce and reproduce power and control relations. Universities not only reflect broader societal values and power relations of the contemporary times in which we currently live, they can also reflect the settler and colonial frontier relationships as they exist today. What can be ascertained is that the nature of a university, what happens there, who is present, how they work, and how the university and its spaces look, feel and are interpreted and experienced impacts on whether Indigenous people physically access that place and do so feeling comfortable, culturally safe, happy and confident as students, staff and community members or experience them as culturally unsafe, highly unsuitable, unwelcoming and exclusionary. In exploring the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within universities, it is important to understand how these complex notions continue to haunt us in the now and how we might work to address them.