We are pleased to announce that Dallas Rogers (University of Sydney) will present his ongoing work “Water as a bordering technology: Understanding the British Crown claim beyond Methodological Nationalism and Atlanticism” at the next ACBS network seminar on Wednesday the 4th of May 2022 at 5pm (AET). A discussant (to be announced) will provide brief commentary on the paper before an open discussion.
Zoom details will be made available closer to the date. Please register via this link if you wish to attend as spaces are limited.
Water as a bordering technology: Understanding the British Crown claim beyond Methodological Nationalism and Atlanticism
Water has long been central to the bordering imaginaries and practices of Australia. Whether it is the initial British Crown claim to Australia, refugee settlement, the geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, inland water rights, or the recently proposed nuclear submarine base on the east coast, questions of water are central to how we understand Australia’s borders. To open a debate about the role of water in contemporary bordering imaginaries and practices in Australia, I return to the watery ontology of the British Crown claim to the New South Wales colony as a case study. I outline the role of rivers and oceans in colonial land theft in Sydney as a bordering practice. The analysis exposes a form of thalassic colonisation, whereby territoriality was a defining feature of settler-colonialism in the first decades of the colonial invasion, but wherein claiming and controlling vast bodies of water was necessary to that territoriality. Britain was a maritime empire and Sydney a maritime town in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and there was a maritime pathway to early land theft in Australia. This archival analysis follows the colonial ships and Aboriginal nawi (bark canoes) to undertake a history from the water. The conceptual framing builds on a long and strong tradition of critical Black scholarship on water, colonialism, labour, land and race. Noting that what happened in the Pacific and Indian Oceans was different to the Atlantic, as recently flagged with concept of Methodological Atlanticism—an idea that has splintered off from the concept of Methodological Nationalism. Understanding the watery ontology of the British Crown claim within this broader maritime town and maritime empire context could productively augment the land-centrism of analyses of the invasion and early ‘settlement’ of Sydney, and it might even help us better understand the politics of water in Australia today.
Further reading: Water and settler-colonialism beyond Methodological Atlanticism
Associate Professor Dallas Rogers is an urban geographer with a broad interest in housing, land, property and urban governance. He writes about the colonial histories of land and water, public housing, foreign real estate investment, the politics of urban development, participatory planning, and platform real estate. His research is currently funded by three Australian Research Council (ARC) grants. Dallas is based in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney.