Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Towards Spatio-Epistemic Justice in the (post) Settler-colonial Cityscape: Indigenous Urban Heritage in //hui !gaeb and Te Whanganui-a-Tara

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posted on 2022-09-10, 02:32 authored by Megan Mulder

Indigenous thinkers around the globe have identified the (post) settler-colonial city as a key site for enacting a decolonised future. This thesis examines Indigenous heritage work in two (post) settler-colonial cities—//hui !gaeb (Cape Town) and Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington). In so doing it aims to contribute to an under-researched aspect of critical heritage studies, and assist in the development of ethical tools for heritage management practice that seeks to increase the Māori and Khoe cultural footprint in these two cities. As a trans-national study, it attempts to shift staid approaches to the study of Africa, while offering unique linkages and perspectives for global research on cities, cultural landscapes and the engagement zone. In order to reckon with spatio-epistemic injustice built into cityspace I have turned to Indigenous heritage work agendas in both cities. What do these agendas offer public history, heritage practice and urban planning and design? Utilising qualitative methods, primarily semi-structured interviews, a relational ontological positioning to data collection and an abductive approach to the application of theory in data analysis, this thesis focusses on multiple case studies. These cases highlight Indigenous interventions within settler-colonial built heritage sites; Indigenous artistic and activist heritage work within the city streets and green spaces; and Indigenous protest against private developments on contested land. It applies an alternative geographic lens informed by theories of thirdspaces, (re)mapping and a New Studia to analysing Indigenous heritage work as history. Accordingly, it focusses particularly on the productive, insurgent spaces this heritage work opens up between Authorised Heritage Discourses and Heritage From Below.

The findings demonstrate the varied history methodologies and archival repositories Indigenous heritage work catalyses within cityspace, and makes an argument for heritage practice as a facilitation of vitalization stories for sustainable urban futures, as opposed to a reactive mitigation of negative effects. The case studies reveal both the resistive and creative capacities of Indigenous urban heritage work, highlighting its articulation of alternative epistemological frameworks for thinking through cityspace, and the varied spatiotemporal narrative approaches it offers public history, heritage practice and urban planning and design. A key contention of this thesis is the need to confront the foundational violence of settler-colonial geographies that have subsequently been embedded in public history and heritage management and practice. It exposes the deficiencies in regulatory frameworks and heritage management practices that inform an inherently inimical attitude to Indigenous heritage in both cities, and evidences the powerful role storytelling and creative approaches can play vis-à-vis disentangling ourselves from the claustrophobic futures constructed by dominant settler-colonial geographies. This broad canvassing of Indigenous urban heritage work thus allows for an approach to professional practice beyond listing and rigid policy guidelines.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Museum and Heritage Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies


McCarthy, Conal; Adds, Peter