Session 4: Representation and Erasure, Short Papers , , , ,

Visualising Everyday Colonial Commemoration: Digitally Mapping Settler-Colonial Commemoration

Bryan Smith
James Cook University

In this paper presentation, using the example of a small Australian city, I argue that the naming practices that give form to local cartographies serves to render colonial dominion over space and the past seemingly part of the natural spatial order. Inspired by Maoz Azaryahu’s (2009a; 2009b) notion of the “city-text” – the idea that the odonymic (street naming) selections in a community narrate a particular historical story of the past – I explore how settler contexts use and create mapped space as a commemorative stage, one where colonial might is written into the spatial backdrop of everyday life. To illustrate this, I present a web based map that plots out and surfaces the colonial naming and “city-text” of Townsville, Queensland to demonstrate and critique the symbolic and material normalisation of settler conquest and what historian Tim Stanley (2009) calls the “banality of colonialism” in everyday life. Further, I argue that this has meaningful consequences for how we anchor historical narrative into place; by writing conquest into every (literal) corner of the urban landscape, place comes to glorify European efforts at dispossession and the resultant Indigenous “ontological homelessness” (Moreton-Robinson 2003; Watson 2009).