Melbourne’s Wildscapes: a Critical Ethnography

Bird, Susan (2014) Melbourne’s Wildscapes: a Critical Ethnography. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis develops a new theoretical understanding of Melbourne’s urban wildscapes through a discussion of a variety of playful practices that take place within them. The urban wildscape is an interdisciplinary concept that refers to marginal or neglected areas within augmented city spaces. I expand on the concept of the wildscape by linking it to the work of Henri Lefebvre and human geographers, arguing that the urban wildscape is not only visual, but can be experienced and produced by a city’s inhabitants. The thesis is interdisciplinary, drawing on cultural studies, law, urban planning and architectural theories. It examines the legislation, case law, and design principles that attempt to control behaviour within the city. The study finds evidence of internal regulation structures that are inherent within the practitioners’ use (and creation) of these wildscapes, and puts forward a case for a loosening of official regulation of such activities based on their contribution to an inclusive, vibrant, postmodern city. The thesis also makes a contribution to knowledge in interdisciplinary methodology. The analysis is achieved through critical ethnography. This involves self-reflexivity, critique and transformative redefinition, which is challenging when using data drawn in part from informant interviews. The critique allows a questioning of law’s certainties. Legal responses are often contradictory and ambiguous as administrators grapple to preserve Melbourne’s image as a creative arts hub and a safe city. Major conclusions reached are that urban wildscapes are not lawless zones, but spaces where complex systems of unofficial rules and regulations exist. These are spaces rich with possibilities. The thesis explores the benefits of the urban wildscape to Melbourne and argues that the future city must learn to embrace them

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1205 Urban and Regional Planning
Historical > FOR Classification > 1604 Human Geography
Historical > FOR Classification > 1801 Law
Current > Division/Research > College of Law and Justice
Keywords city spaces, public spaces, urbanisation, culture, law, regulations, city planning, architecture, aesthetics, urbex, industrial ruins, rave, flash mobs, graffiti, scavenging, dance parties, critical ethnographies, ethnography, communities, suburbs, suburbia, Melbourne
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