Doctor of Philosophy
School of Geography and Sustainable Communities
Notwithstanding concerns about land availability and housing affordability, the Australian dream of a detached, family oriented home in low-density suburbs persists as a cultural desire. Overlaying this dream is the shared desire by Australians to live by the coast. These cultural norms magnify ideals of home and what they portend to include: how meanings for home are made in reference to tenure, cultures of nature, and relationships with finance, and with what consequences. The knotted yet discordant threads woven between certain types of housing, owner-occupation, understandings of nature and growing influences of finance, warrant critical scrutiny. This thesis responds to this task. In it, I ask: how does rethinking housing as a process contribute to understanding Australian home cultures, and the associated practices of homemaking, within the context of Australian cultural myths of owneroccupation and coastal lifestyle? Conceptually the thesis is guided by recent developments in critical cultural geography that view home as a product of relations: attending to practices, routines, emotions, temporalities, materialities, and more-than-human encounters.
At the same time, the thesis also draws upon concepts from cultural-economy that view such relations as mediated by governmental rationalities, calculations and subjectivities. Masterplanned estates (MPEs) are sites that enable owner-occupation and a securitised living of the Australian dream, while they are also sites of economic performances: of accumulation, speculation and ‘rational’ financial decision-making. The thesis explores resulting tensions that emerge in time and space, between an idealised coastal MPE as a pre-eminent ‘calculative’ space of prestige and investment, and the ‘throwntogetherness’ of the lived experience of the place, as it is actually built and inhabited, dwelled within.
The coastal MPE, I argue, is a distinctive material-geographical place, shot through with calculation and governmentalities/ideologies, but also made in contingent ways (by humans, money, salt spray and sand). The coastal MPE is situated in a biophysical setting under stress and facing growing uncertainty, emotional resonances that also reverberate in the lived human experience of dwelling there. In this place, owner-occupation sets certain precursors, certain conditions, and these enrol together nature and money in distinctive configurations. The thesis draws critical attention to how such places are conceived, and homes within them made. It is attentive to cultural norms and calculations, but crucially, also focused on how prosaic place-making proceeds, at the home/household scale—how investing, building and dwelling in this place actually unfurls, with all its resulting material-cultural and emotional entanglements.
This thesis is structured in a compiled format, with four results chapters taking shape in the form of four academic journal articles. As a result, the branches of the thesis stretch at different angles, and share collective roots in a critical framework of relational materiality. The four results chapters follow threads that emanated empirically, over a four-year period, from one coastal master-planned estate: Greenhills Beach, in southern Sydney. Research focused at the household scale, and the decisions, rationales, circumstances and everyday experiences of homemaking and place. Twenty-one households participated in semistructured interviews, incorporating a ‘home tour’, that focused on purchasing decision, building a new home, and early homemaking practices. This methodology was buttressed with analysis of advertising material, place histories, and an interview with a developer representative.
Gillon, Charles, Houses built on sand: Rethinking cultures of homemaking, nature and finance in a coastal master-planned estate, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong, 2017. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/195