Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Michelle A Lelièvre

Committee Member

Audrey Horning

Committee Member

Jennifer Kahn

Committee Member

Andrea Wright


This thesis utilizes a theoretical and methodological approach that explores subjectivity as the relational, complex, fluid, multidimensional, recursive and intersectional modes in which social subjects are animated (Ortner 2005, 31). I discuss these different aspects of subjectivity construction through a contemporary example from urban Australia and by employing frameworks that underscore the agency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Aboriginal or Aboriginal Australians) in constructing and maintaining their own subjectivities through discourses that challenge settler colonialism. I work to intertwine related theoretical approaches such as practice theory as defined by Sherry Ortner, and Pierre Bourdieu's discussion of the distinction of taste and its ties to unequal power relations in contemporary societies (Ortner 1984, 146; Bourdieu 1984, 57). Specifically, my study questions and problematizes the processes that constitute, perpetuate, and hinder the subjectivity formation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (Aboriginal Australians) in an inner city suburb of Sydney, New South Wales called Redfern. My case study examines the intersection of Aboriginality (as both an ethnicity and as a facet of subjectivity), agency in contemporary urban Australia, and to a lesser extent the role of bureaucracy. I analyze these concepts in terms of their historical and cultural contexts, which complicate and inform contemporary lived experiences of members of Aboriginal communities in Redfern. Specifically, I argue that initiatives aimed at lowering inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians as well as attempts at incorporating Aboriginal Sydneysiders into an Anglo-Australian society ultimately perpetuate longstanding tensions involving Aboriginality, agency, and subjectivity. This paper also argues that the adoption, contestation, maintenance, rejection, and construction of Aboriginality are inextricably tied with bureaucratic processes and the agency of Aboriginal Australians in Sydney, which can be seen through examples of initiatives such as this housing development that are aimed at combatting inequality between Aboriginal Australians and Anglo-Australians.




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