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Lecture 10

Rethinking Identity:
How do social identities take place?

Dr Rachel Hughes
Melbourne School of Land and Environment

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Our construction as subjects exists through the
inter-relation of wider socio-spatial processes
and our own biographical identities
e.g. national identity, nationalism, 2005 riots:
Aust as simple territory an impoverished
imaginary the beach as iconic Anglo-Aust
space embodied strategies of reclaiming,
purifying space

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Outline of lecture
1. Age, gender identities & place, space, power
2. Case study: Vancouver nannies
2.1 How socio-spatial identities are complex,
changeable, and defy easy assumptions
2.2 How a creative collaboration might
intervene in various injustices arising from
such a situation
3. Tutorial next week
4. Conclusions
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1. Social identities: gender
e.g. ideas of femininity have shifted over time
and vary from place to place
An important spatialisation for thinking through
changing femininity has been the public/
private divide (a dualistic construction, but
persistent and pervasive)

relates to todays case study.

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1. Social identities: age
Similarly, age-based identities are constructed
differently across different places and times
e.g. childhood and children: little devils? little
angels? competent social actors? childhoods
now subject to capitalist workday (around
parental demands for unbroken night sleep)
e.g old-age: discourses of age intersect with
those of class, physical ability and gender,
demands of convenience
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disability and sexuality
e.g. understanding the built environment as
itself disabling, not the individual as needing
e.g. sexuality and space: metaphor of the
closet, geographies of homosexual beats, the
transient space of the GLBT pride marches
Social identity/ disadvantage used to be
conceived of as accumulative, now recognised
as complex, tenuous, negotiated
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2. Case study: Vancouver nannies
Researcher Prof. Geraldine Pratt
-Long-term involvement in (Vancouver-
based) Philippine Womens Centre (PWC)
and work on the Canadian Govt. Live-in
Caregiver Program (LCP)
-Did research interviews with 50 employers
of domestic workers/ nannies in two sites:
inner-city and suburbs

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Greater Vancouver, Canada
2.1 Socio-spatial identities:
complex, changeable
Unexpected finding: Philippine women (in
LCP program) didnt work in suburbs (but
dominant in inner-city domestic work)
Found that white Canadian women
(teenage, mothers themselves, or retired)
comprised the suburban labour supply
These women were were most lowly paid
of domestic workers in the greater
Vancouver area
2.2 How to intervene?
Pratt and the PWC share:

an analysis that weds (probably different kinds of)

feminism with a critique of Canadas opportunistic use of
an economic crisis in the Philippines that leads one out
of every ten Filipinos to find work overseas; second,
some norms about social justice; and third, a critique of
the Canadian state and citizens who hold universal
ideals of equality but practice them in very particularistic
ways, that is to say, unevenly in relation to different
categories of people (Pratt 2002).
Pratt 2002 cont.
We have found common ground for identification
[with each other] by seeing how inequalities in
our various homes, both in Canada and in the
Philippines, are linked (Pratt, 2002: 198)

Pratt set out to examine difference, and found it,

(class and citizenship),
BUT also found (different) marginalisations
stemming from the devaluation of domestic
2.2 How to intervene?
i.e. this marginalisation/ devaluation of
domestic work was differently experienced by:
- LCP participants (Phillipine women),
- Canadian women working as suburban
- their employers, Canadian working mums
BUT collaborations possible, e.g. 2009 theatre
event based on their testimonies:
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3. Field-based tutorial next
Your tutorial next week: is a self-guided visit to
the Immigration Museum exhibition: Identity:
yours, mine, ours
Medical questionnaire
Handout: print off from LMS, submit your
annotated handout to your tutors in Week 7
(proof of attendance)
If you want to go in groups, make them <10

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3. Field-based tutorial next
Address: 400 Flinders St, open 10-5 daily
-- Take your student card for free entry --
Preparation: no set reading, but catch up on set
reading in the subject so far
Take: something to write with, the handout, a
camera (but no flash allowed)
OHS: Please comply with all museum signage
and any instructions that museum staff give
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4. Conclusions
Social identities e.g. gender identities and
their disadvantage, once seen as accumulative
Recent research has examined the more
complex intersection of different identities, kinds
of work, and meanings of work-spaces, plus
ongoing and changing factors like laws ,
governance, social norms of intimate localities
Doesnt mean no room for politics, collaboration

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