Describing why I am offering these descriptions of Port Melbourne

This post is simply some excerpts from the ‘working outline’ for my thesis. The document has been taking shape and so there has not been much to post as this largely involves reworking descriptions. No longer spending time in Port Melbourne, I do not have observations of what is happening on day-to-day to offer. As you will see below, much of my time is taken up by reflecting on more conceptual issues.

Key concepts drawn from the work of Rancière are used to shape both the descriptions and analysis I am working on. These concepts facilitate my distinctive contribution to understandings of what it is like to share a suburb with other people: distinctive in its approach not just as a result of original data from being in particular spaces, engaged in particular interactions at particular moments in time.

The particularities of the field site are not irrelevant but, as descriptions are only ever imposed on (and accounts are enacted in) a world that is irreducibly complex, I could never offer an exhaustive audit of the people and social interactions in Port Melbourne. In fact, I cannot even delineate the boundaries of ‘Port Melbourne’ in a way that would be unquestioned. Just as you need to have some understanding of what I am referring to as ‘Port Melbourne’ to make any sense of what I write, order must be imposed if any sort of commentary is to be offered. The imperfection of any order is not just a limit of the accounts to follow, it must be accepted as part of engaging with the world.

So I move back and forth between trying to describe some of the qualities of the particular orders I encountered in Port Melbourne and demonstrating how they are imposed on the world. I am particularly interested in moments when orders appear to be challenged. I want to be able to understand the frustrations and limits people experience.

I grant space to some of the everyday rhythms and occasional interruptions I encountered amongst some of the people, within some of the spaces and through many documents containing descriptions of Port Melbourne. This does not mean that Port Melbourne, as a people or a place, speaks for itself; this is my text and so my intervention in the world. They do not offer a roadmap for building better houses, being better neighbours or fostering stronger communities. My hope is that they act as a reminder that, rather than looking for the ‘sensible thing to do’, the real challenge of politics is to enact a world where what we want to see becomes sensible. Our representations of the world are not the world itself, but they do matter.  

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