Seminar: Settler-Colonialism at the Water’s Edge: From Barangaroo to Barangaroo

  • -
  • Wollongong Campus
    Early Start Discovery Space. 21.G04.

Presenter: Dr Dallas Rogers, University of Sydney

From Barangaroo the person to Barangaroo the urban development project, in this talk we discuss our evolving research collaboration tracing a political history of property and power at Warrane/Sydney Cove, from 1788 to 2020. Following Timothy Mitchell’s conception of the settler colonial-capitalist economy as a ‘project’ enrolling actors, technologies, calculations and materialities, we link a number of key infrastructural projects over this timeline: displacing Aboriginal people from the land to establish the colony; the various wharf projects in Sydney Cove and Walsh Bay; maritime workers housing; the Harbour Bridge; Opera House; The Rocks redevelopment proposal and the Sirius Building; Cross City Tunnel; Barangaroo development; and the proposal to allow private interests to takeout a 49-year lease of Cockatoo Island. While land is a foundational concern in settler-colonial studies—requiring violence and accompanying legal-technical mechanisms to alienate it as property—from a remarkable and singular physical site we highlight the role and importance of water in the settler colonial project. Using case studies located at the water’s edge we should how successive waves of people who are not of this place continually made unsolicited claims to Warrane/Sydney Cove – as both land, and as water. In classic settler-colonial fashion, they claimed and took control of this place, defended it from others and used it to serve their own ends. These unsolicited claims were extractive in nature, and the conceptual tools of settler-colonial studies are useful for exposing how value is extracted from stolen land that has been rendered as property. But we argue extraction is not just about the land in our case. Water—bridging it, views of it, access to it, transport along it, gaining governance power from it—is also key to extracting past, present and future value at the water’s edge in Sydney. Water had a utilitarian value within the colonial shipping and wharf infrastructure projects, water was something to be tamed or overcome with the Harbour Bridge, water became an infrastructure opportunity itself with the Harbour Tunnel, and water was rendered with property value via its geographic association with land in the Barangaroo project. Understanding the longue durée of unsolicited land and water claims at Warrane/Sydney Cove opens up new ways of critically interrogating contemporary urban developments, and further develops the conceptual tools of settler-colonial theory.

Event location

Early Start Discovery Space. 21.G04
University of Wollongong