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Reading Suvendrini Perera’s Australia and the Insular Imagination


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Stratford, E and McMahon, E and Jackson, M and Farbotko, C and Suvendrini, P (2011) Reading Suvendrini Perera’s Australia and the Insular Imagination. Political Geography, 30 (6). pp. 329-338. ISSN 0962-6298

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It was Achille Mbembe (2003) who avowed that geography was
never intended to be equal. Sustained engagement with Suvendrini
Perera’s richly evocative, intellectually provocative, and critically
important intervention in the borderlands between cultural studies
and geography underlines his observation.
Australia and the Insular Imagination will resonate deeply with
readers of Political Geography, since both are concerned with the
complex interrelationships between power and space. Most obviously,
Perera’s work is about “sea, land, nation, and the spaces
between”; it is about “their conjunction in a specific formation,
the island”; and, in particular, it is about the ways in which the
island configures and shapes “territorial nationalism in Australia,
the island-continent” (p. 1). Note the definite article here: this is
Australia as monolith: insular, singular, inviolable. Yet, data from
Geoscience Australia (2010) suggest this island-continent is, in
fact, some 8222 islands, islets and rocky outcropsdan archipelago.
Of such geographical formations, Baldacchino, Farbotko, Harwood,
McMahon, and Stratford (2011, p. 6) note that they are “not essential
properties of space but instead are fluid cultural processes,
‘abstract relations of movement and rest’, dependent on changing
conditions of articulation or connection”. In many ways, Perera’s
book is a challenge to the ‘monologicality’ of the island and an invitation
to consider this other, processual political geographydan
archipelagic world. Here, for Perera, may be a “starting point for
alternative historical understandings that ‘should alleviate those
fears that serve to deepen our isolation, and worse, our racist
instincts’” (p. 100, following Dunn).

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Political Geography
Page Range: pp. 329-338
ISSN: 0962-6298
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.06.001
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The definitive version is available at

Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2011 02:32
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 04:22
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