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The battle for Waterloo : governing and resisting the redevelopment of public housing

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Wynne, LE ORCID: 0000-0002-5654-3464 2019 , 'The battle for Waterloo : governing and resisting the redevelopment of public housing', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Decades of state disinvestment in public housing, and its subsequent decline and residualisation, have resulted in it becoming a ‘tenure of last resort’ in Australia, with estates often characterised by large concentrations of disadvantaged households. In recent years, many governments have adopted the rhetoric of ‘social mix’ to rationalise the redevelopment of public housing estates.
Since the 1970s, Waterloo, a neighbourhood in inner-city Sydney, has been home to over 2,000 low-income households living in a high-rise public housing estate. In 2015, the New South Wales State Government announced that the existing social housing was to be demolished and replaced with a privately-developed ‘mixed community’. In response, many residents took steps to resist the redevelopment of their neighbourhood.
In this thesis, I explore resistance to the redevelopment of Waterloo. Deploying Foucauldian conceptions of power, government and resistance, I draw on approaches from studies of governmentality and use Foucault’s notion of ‘counter-conduct’. Resistance has rarely formed a major focus of Foucauldian governmentality works—nor of works focused on public housing redevelopment—and in this thesis I demonstrate the utility of Foucauldian-inspired approaches for understanding neoliberal governmentalities. I use ethnographic data collected through observation of the tenant-led groups attempting to resist the redevelopment between 2016 and 2018, interviews with tenants, and a critical analysis of key government texts.
Elaborating an ‘analytics of government’ and viewing government as a productive—rather than repressive—activity, I explore theconditions through which it is possible to govern Waterloo. I then turn the same analytical lens upon resistance, approaching it as a productive activity to understand what might eventuate when resistance to neoliberal housing policy occurs. My use of Foucault’s notion of ‘counter-conduct’ illuminates resistance as a practice that both reifies and refutes dominant governmentalities, and demonstrates the challenges that arise in resisting a mode of government that ‘conducts the conduct’ of subjects and that governs through their agency. Through viewing the NSW Government’s tenant engagement and capacity building program as a ‘technology of citizenship’, I bring to light how these are not neutral programs for soliciting tenant input into the redevelopment but rather serve to coopt dissent and redirect tenant resistance towards governmental objectives. The Foucauldian lens also makes possible an exploration of the ways in which individualising tendencies of neoliberalism pervade spaces of resistance, and allows dominant structures to be reproduced even within activist spaces.
In adopting this approach, the thesis advances an analytics for resistance that provides critical analysis of the government of public housing and illuminates the challenges experienced by those who oppose neoliberal modes of governing housing. I find that, although the resistance efforts failed to achieve their highest-order objectives, it is not ‘useless to revolt’, for resistance opens opportunities for subjects to refuse to be conducted in particular ways and to imagine how things might be otherwise.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Wynne, LE
Keywords: public housing; redevelopment; resistance; Foucault; governmentality
DOI / ID Number: 10.25959/100.00034650
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 the author

Additional Information:

Appendix 1 is the following published article (and chapter 11 is derived from it): Wynne, L., 2020. Empowerment and the individualisation of resistance: A Foucauldian perspective on Theatre of the Oppressed, Critical social policy, 40(3), 331-349

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