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IAS Fellows’ Seminar – Sydney’s drinking water catchment: a broken lawscape of water and coal
February 8, 2021 @ 8:00 am - 9:00 am
IAS Seminar by Dr Nicole Graham, University of Sydney.
The Greater Sydney drinking water catchment is located within the Sydney Basin bioregion on the east coast of Australia. The historical development of Sydney’s drinking water catchment was premised on a conceptualisation of its landscape as a ‘resource frontier’ (Tsing, 2003). From the earliest days of British colonisation, the catchment was viewed almost entirely as an abstract set of separable resources, rather than as a material whole comprised of intimately connected cycles and systems. The colonial landscape, imagined to be unowned, was thought to be ‘ready to be dismembered and packaged for export’ (Tsing 2003). An extension of a terra nullius, Sydney’s drinking water catchment was founded on the dispossession of the Gundungurra, Darug and Tharawal nations and the rejection of their place-based laws underpinned by long-standing knowledge and experience of local geomorphological, hydrological and climate conditions. Today, the Sydney drinking water catchment comprises the catchments of 4 rivers, draining into 21 storage dams and reservoirs (which also capture rainfall across the catchment). There are several historic and active coal mines beneath it. Thus, the Greater Sydney drinking water catchment does not fit neatly into the categories of ‘natural’ nor ‘cultural’ places. It may be more helpfully understood as a lawscape, a place created, in part, by laws and which has created, in part, the local laws. Lawscapes defy conventional categories of natural and cultural places, because they disrupt the human/nature binary and there reveal the ‘mutual constitution and embeddedness’ (Head and Gibson, 2012, p702) of human laws in the world (Graham, 2011).
The Seminar will take place on Zoom. To register please click here.