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Recomposing Aesthetic Anxiety and Perforating Suburban Infrastructures: Informal Religious Meeting Places in Melbourne
journal contributionposted on 2020-08-04, 00:00 authored by Michele Lobo
A permit for a Buddhist place of worship in suburban Melbourne was rejected by the local Planning Committee. The application by the Mirror of the Dhamma Society to hold small religious gatherings in a semi-detached single storey house in an area zoned General Residential was deemed inappropriate. The paper focuses on this event that circulated contagious global white affects of anxiety and fear in response to potential changes in the Australian suburban infrastructure. What escaped scrutiny, however, was state-sanctioned aesthetic judgements of appropriate suburban infrastructures that were underpinned by invisible but dominant social and cultural norms. This paper calls for undoing these norms, recomposing white affects, and remaking Australian suburbia in ways that veer away from stigmatising or exoticizing material expressions of cultural diversity in the built landscape. Responding to Felix Guattari’s call for a new aesthetic paradigm with ethico-political implications, I explore the possibilities for new suburban ecologies that transcend the secular/sacred binary. The paper is written from my shifting positionality as a first-generation migrant woman and Australian of Indian heritage who arrived in Melbourne 19 years ago. It is informed by my broad research agenda on everyday multiculturalism, grounded religiosity, and belonging in cities with white majority cultures.