Urban representations: cultural expression, identity and politics

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From mural art to the tradition of making possum skin cloaks, this book looks at artistic expression and its relationship to Aboriginal life and culture in a variety of media and in different urban locations.

The chapters in this volume were presented as papers in the sessions on Representation and Cultural Expression at the 2009 AIATSIS National Indigenous Studies Conference Perspectives on Urban Life: Connections and Reconnections. The conference presentations by artists, academics and professionals in the broader art spectrum explored the significance of urban representations across a diverse field of cultural practice, including the visual and performing arts, music and film. As session convenors, we agreed to edit those papers submitted to AIATSIS for publication in the conference proceedings. 

Our aim in bringing together these chapters is to contribute to new insights and critical analysis around the subject of urban representations. We hope that from this discussion key themes will emerge and connect to the chapters that follow. 

Recent debate around the idea of urban representations has drawn attention to the problematic category ‘urban’, yet there is often little recognition that the concern with urban representation and the politics of identity is a historical one coming to the fore in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time Aboriginal artists found the authenticity of both their identity and their work called into question. Today contemporary urban Aboriginal art is heralded for its challenging insights and yet the term ‘urban’ remains hotly contested and ambiguous. This publication offers an opportunity to reflect upon these critical debates from a perspective some three or four decades since the arrival of a contemporary urban Aboriginal art movement.

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Peer reviewed: 
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