Place-defending and the denial of racism

Australian Council of Social Sciences Inc
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Social Issues, 2014, 49 (1), pp. 67 - 85
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This paper introduces the concept of place-defending and articulates its implications for locality-based social policy. Place-defending is the protection of one's local area from unfavourable assessments, in this case of being labelled or perceived as a racist space. Place attachment and identifications with place are drivers of place-defending. Person-place relationships and their implications for locality-based social policies have not yet received sufficient consideration in the literature—a significant oversight considering the current policy focus in Australia and the United Kingdom on locality-based social policy. In this study of local anti-racism in the Australian context, place-defending involved the denial of racism and performances of place that reproduced the discourse of tolerance. Print media coverage of the release of national data on racism was analysed alongside a series of interviews with individuals working on anti-racism at both local and state/federal levels. Four tools of place-defending are discussed: direct action to defend place; spatial deflections; use of minority group members to discredit claims of racism; and critiques of those who make claims about racism. The tools of place-defending operated to construct localities as places of tolerance, potentially undermining the case for anti-racism.
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