Document Type

Journal Article


In the lead up to the 2004 election, federal member for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly, infamously argued that Penrith, the main locality in her electorate, was a ‘pram city’, and did not need improved funding for its university. The image of place invoked essentialist understandings of suburban residents: outer areas were meant to be working class and anti-intellectual; a commuter belt, where students weren’t welcome, where men travelled from to work in factories and offices, and women looked after children. This hotly contested invocation built on pre-existing imaginary geographies of the city that construct binaries between inner and outer city areas: densely populated vs. sprawl; gentrified terraces vs. new estates; zones of production and creativity vs. sedate, consumer territory. Although such binaries have been long debunked by researchers, we argue in this article that lurking behind recent urban research (particularly the flood of work on creativity and the creative class) has been an unconscious reproduction of such binaries. Though certainly not expressed in Kelly’s regressive terminology, emphasis has been placed on inner metropolitan, gentrified zones of cities, where industries like film, music and advertising have tended to locate. Middle and outer ring suburbs (as well as rural areas) are largely ignored, implied to be ‘uncreative’ zones—places of domestic consumption rather than sites of innovation, the arts and creativity. This article deconstructs these binaries. It critiques indexing measures that portray suburbs as ‘lagging’ and ‘uncreative’, and draws instead on longitudinal research on creative industries in Sydney to reveal a more complex story of social change and sectoral differentiation, of concentration, dispersal and relational networks.