A Conversation on Race for The London School of Economics



Dr Jacqueline Nelson

The geographies of racism, or how racism manifests spatially and temporally, are of increasing concern to racism scholars. Communicating research about different geographies of racism to wider public audiences can be a difficult task. This special SoundMinds Radio LSE blog post sits at the intersection of two political projects, research and communication.

SoundMinds Radio is a research communication project funded by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. The SoundMinds team recently produced two 15-minute radio episodes on themes relating to the geographies of racism:

  1. The Migrant, The Refugee and The Border
  2. Navigating The City as a Young Muslim

The first is about how Australia’s refugee intake and skill migrant programs pivot on two key ideas: the notion of the border and the construction of a national identity and the second is about how claims of Islamic terrorism in social media will affect how young Muslims navigate the city.

The importance of geography is striking in the two podcasts. The way places are experienced, right from urban localities through to nations, depends very much on our racialised subjectivity. Boundaries or borders are central to how we collectively imagine the nation and our cities, delineating between the inside and the outside. Under pressure, from people seeking asylum (in the case of the nation) or from criminal activity involving the taking of hostages in the Sydney CBD (at the urban level), the edges or limits of these imaginings become evident.

One way that I have thought about how protective people can be in relation to place is through the concept of place defending. Applied to the issue of racism, I’ve found that people are highly motivated to protect their local area from unfavourable assessments, in the case of my research, from being labeled as a racist space. We could also apply the idea of place defending to a preferred imagining of the nation or city. Concerns about increasingly porous national borders and the possible shifts in national identity that result from this, could be constructed as place defending operating at a national level.

Similarly, we could construe the effects on mobility experienced by young Muslims at the time of the Sydney Siege as an example of urban level place defending, whereby Muslim Australians are constructed as not belonging to the city. Conversely the #Illridewithyou campaign in support of Sydney Muslims that occurred at the same time could also be seen as an alternative process of place defending, in this case to define and construct Sydney as a place where Muslim Australians belong.


Professor Ien Ang, Professor of Cultural Studies and founding Director of the Institute for Culture and Society.
Dr Shanthi Robertson, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society.
Rhonda Itaoui, PhD candidate member of the Challenging Racism Project and sessional academic at Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences and Psychology.

AUDIO : The Migrant, the Refugee and the Border

ABC QandA Episode 37, 12 October 2015
ABC NEWS Jenny McGregor, head of Asia-Link
SBS NEWS 25 OCT 2015
Free Music Archive Night Owl by Broke For Free
Free Music Archive Metal Planet by Alasdair Cooper
Free Music Archive Dream (instrumental) by Chan Wai Fat

AUDIO : Navigating the City as a Young Muslim

ABC News The Sydney siege as it unfolded
9 NEWS Social Media Campaign supporting Muslims goes viral
The Verdict Mark Latham targets western Sydney
Free Music Archive Cylinder Seven by Chris Zabriskie
Free Music Archive La tapa del miércoles by Circus Marcus
Free Music Archive Bumble by Podington Bear
Free Music Archive Pacific by Psychadelik Pedestrian
Free Music Archive Impact Prelude by Kevin MacLeod