ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Mapping Aboriginal lifestyles: adding vertical and lateral dimensions to urban social space

Robert James Funnell

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 10 - Law Building, Room 105
Date: 2012-07-12 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-19


This paper targets a neglect in Australia of surveys in favour of census data to compare the lifestyles of 'urban Aboriginal' people with others in localized contexts. The census, which replaced early surveys of Aboriginal peoples between the mid-1960s and the 1980s, has become the sole statistical basis on which perceptions are formed about relations between Aboriginals and others in urban settings. The Australian census is inadequate for constructing a space from which relations between Aboriginal people and others can be constructed. The variables are concerned with the development of national policy, they are not specific to local contexts. The main limitation is that the census provides a vertical scale related to demographic areas, it is not designed to realistically dis-aggregate into the specifics particular to the actual living conditions in which Aboriginal people enter into social relations with others. An argument is made for surveys, as used by Bourdieu and more recently extended in Britain and parts of Europe, to provide descriptive statistics from which the volume and types of specific capitals can be mapped to compare Aboriginal other people in urban status groupings. The results of a survey of Aboriginal and other residents in the outer suburbs of a capital city in Australia are discussed as an example of the construction of an urban space. Conclusions are made about the potential of research combining surveys and interviews as a way to extend the census in a better understanding of the effects of 'urbanization' on Aboriginal lifestyles over time.