I intended on starting with a bang. I was going to inaugurate this blog by forwarding the hypothesis that the suburb where I live, Brunswick, Melbourne, doesn’t exist as a neighbourhood. But whilst writing I came to the realisation that such a closed hypothesis would complicate my path forward. How could a non-existing subject provide material for future posts? Brunswick would already be closed off as a problem. It didn’t appear to be a particularly productive move. I thus shelved such polemical declarations and decided to move forward with a little more care. Instead, I began work on a framework that in future posts would allow me to delve into an investigation of how contemporary Brunswick works, then, perhaps in the future, looking back readers would be able to form an opinion themselves on my initial rash hypothesis.
My focus in future posts will be on elaborating an understanding of how Brunswick exists physically and oneirically. I intend on complicating the dominant Brunswick product. The Brunswick product is attributed certain characteristics. It is synonymous with hipster culture and can be consumed in numerous cafes, bars and shops, particularly along Sydney Road and Lygon Street. Brunswick the product is in conflict with the reality of its content. There are at least two Brunswicks existing simultaneously. There is an older working class Brunswick and an emergent gentrifying one. Gentrification, according to wikipedia, “refers to shifts in an urban community lifestyle and an increasing share of wealthier residents and/or businesses and increasing property values”. In Brunswick this process is by no means complete. As a result the suburb exist as the juxtaposition of diverse elements. There is little doubt however that it is being remade in a particular way. It is seen as a place that is becoming a centre for “professionals, community minded types, and those with a bit of edgy flair”. The common view seems to be that these people are the active Brunswick and others are but traces of a by gone era that will soon be moved out.
Such a myopic view comes about through a particular way of inhabiting space that I will refer to as tourism. According to William Theobold “etymologically, the word tour is derived from the Latin, ‘tornare’ and the Greek, ‘tornos’, meaning ‘a lathe or circle; movement around a central point or axis’. Following these etymological roots it is possible to define a tourist as someone who inhabits a place around a central point or axis that gives it meaning. The Brunswick brand provides the central point for the neighbourhood tourist. It gives them a series of locations and ideas that they associate with the Brunswick experience. Anything outside of the pre-conceived map is uncomfortable and tends to be understood as a defect or more usually is ignored completely. Within this definition a tourist doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular type of traveller. It refers to a way of interacting with our surroundings. It is judging and living out daily life in relation a catalogue of things and experiences that are understood as ‘authentic’.
Needless to say, such myopia ignores the existence of diversity. In relation to the Brunswick brand it alienates those that are not included within it, at least until they are completely wiped away by gentrification (which within such a narrative is inevitable). So where can we start if we want to draw out what Etienne Balibar would call the “other scene” of Brunswick, that complex lived totality that exceeds any reduced definition. I will suggest that a good place to start is to map out the diverse spaces, itineraries, oneiric threads and memories that structure how diverse individuals inhabit the neighbourhood. Where to these meet and how do they interact? This question is key to determining where and how Brunswick exists as a neighbourhood and potentialising any alternative to the inevitable.