Revisiting La Perouse : a postcolonial history

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This thesis is a history of La Perouse, a Sydney suburb on the northern headland of Botany Bay. It is primarily concerned with exploring epistemological questions about history making and the writing of history, particularly local history. Drawing from debates that emerged broadly during the 1988 bicentennial period in Australia and since, the thesis asks: what history of La Perouse is it now possible to write? how might a history of La Perouse (and other local places) be conceptualised in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century? The thesis reconceptualises understandings of the ‘local’ and the ‘national’, and their relationship to each other. Rather than consider these categories as purely complementary or decidedly oppositional, the ‘local’ and the ‘national’ are understood as co-constitutive, fragmentary and ambivalent. They are theorised as always in-the-making. In a similar way, the history of La Perouse is examined and re-presented through a series of other overlapping and unresolved tensions between uniqueness and ordinariness, centre and margin, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, city and suburb, attraction and abjection, among others. The thesis traces pasts associated with, and meanings of, La Perouse not well represented in existing local historiography. In this respect, considerable emphasis is given to La Perouse as a metropolitan place of Aboriginal residence. In writing a history of the place, people’s active engagement in making, interpreting, negotiating and retelling local histories constitutes a major theme. This includes tracing Aboriginal people’s history making at La Perouse throughout the twentieth century. A broad range of sources is drawn upon to write a history of La Perouse including the contemporary physical and remembered landscape; recorded oral histories and memories shared in conversation; written histories; visual images; objects; and archival material. More than merely evidence about the past, the thesis asks questions about the production and circulation of sources and considers their use and effect in making historical meanings, now and in the past. By writing a new history of La Perouse, the claim is not to have fixed (in both senses of the word) existing accounts. Rather, influenced by contemporary postcolonial theory, it is a response to the changing ways in which history and history making are currently understood and are being reconceptualised in Australia.
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