Tag Archives: belonging

Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design by Paul Carter




Paul Carter’s new book is a protest against the dumbing down of imaginative thinking. It champions a common reader who resists being patronised, and who is hungry for a deeper understanding of the places we live in – how they came into being, and how, if their creative origins are remembered, they can be changed for the better.

Carter has a long-term interest in the poetic mechanisms of colonialism – mapping, naming, marking – and in this book he presents a critical philosophy of placemaking that recognises the historical burden of our ‘designs’ on the world. He transforms this into a new language of drawing, writing, and choreographing places into being. This, unlike its colonial predecessors, preserves the possibility of meeting, of something un-prescribed happening.

The key to this is what he calls ‘dark writing’: the elemental marks, historical traces, place associations, and other phenomena that shadow our positivist history of placemaking. But to take agency over our places, we must also relocate our thinking, as this will determine where and how we arrive. The place of Carter’s own thinking – situated, poetic, dynamic, opportunistic, and evolving in the laboratory of professional collaboration – complements his notion of ‘material thinking’. This approach respects the intelligence of circumstances and performs in relation to them.

Disregarding the disciplinary stand-offs that endure in our institutions, Dark Writing moves with ease between historical geography, continental phenomenology, major public artworks he has co-designed, a radical reappraisal of the Western Desert Painting Movement, and a survey of ‘dark writing’ in tomb art, photography and handwriting. But Carter’s goal is clear: to free our senses to occupy public space differently, not as passive spectators but as mobile bodies creatively endowing our environment with meaning.

Paul Carter’s many books include the acclaimed The Road to Botany Bay, The Lie of the Land and Repressed Spaces. He is Creative Director of Material Thinking, a placemaking research and design studio, and is currently designing a public space project in Darwin.

Indian Ocean belongers, 1668-2008



The Indian Ocean and South Asia Research Network invites you to its first seminar in 2009:

Dr. Stephanie Jones, University of Southampton, UK
DATE: Friday, April 3 TIME: 5.30 pm
VENUE: TfC Bagel, UTS, Building 3 (Bon Marche), Level 4, Room 4.02

Indian Ocean belongers, 1668-2008

The paper begins with an exploration of how Henry Neville’s fictional Isle of Pines (1668) plays through ideas of Arcadia, utopia, British colonial ambition, and ideas of belonging towards a critical commentary on government accountability under a constitutional rule of law. The paper then traces how, nearly three and a half centuries later, the real islands closest to Neville’s fictional isle—the Chagos Archipelago—are being defined by a similar interaction of narratives within a line of UK court judgements (Bancoult 2000, 2006, 2007, and the House of Lords decision of October 2008).  The inhabitants of the Chagos islands were expelled by the British government in the 1960s in order to satisfy a lease agreement with the United States government, which required the ‘uninhabited’ islands for the establishment of a military base. In their battle to have their expulsion declared illegal, exiled Chagossians challenged the scope of the government’s prerogative powers when dealing with colonial lands and subjects. This paper argues that the judgments on the Chagos crucially rely on a subdued but at times lyrical, legally-open and provocative evocation of what it means to be a ‘belonger’ of a place. Through a consideration of the legislative histories of this word; through scrutiny of its indeterminate relationship to notions of citizenship, indigeneity, nationality and the language of rights; and through an engagement with broader cultural narratives of belonging, the paper moves towards an understanding of the potential of public law to lend both ethically nuanced and practical meaning to terms of belonging.

Biographic Note

Dr Stephanie Jones (BA/LLB, Australian National University; PhD, Cambridge) is lecturer in 20th Century Literature in English at the University of Southampton, UK. Stephanie is the director of an AHRC funded project on "The Indian Ocean: narratives in literature and law". 

She also researches and teaches more broadly in the field of maritime literatures, and the inter-discipline of law and literature. She has worked on East African literatures, literatures of the South Asian diaspora, and postcolonial theory.

RSVP: cornelia.betzler@uts.edu.au