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Thinking through the Pilbara

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Mainstream, place-based theories of economic development presume that there is a common set of stages of economic development that all territories (should) pass through. This perspective presents ‘resource peripheries’ such as the Pilbara as deviations from this norm. Based on a brief visit to the Pilbara, and drawing on economic geographical concepts of the socio-spatial dialectic and socio-spatial positionality, I contest such a ‘northern’ reading of development possibilities. Thinking through the Pilbara, I identify two substantial shifts in socio-spatial positionality. As the Pilbara has become more interconnected with the now increasingly Northeast Asian core of globalising capitalism, Western Australia has become increasingly resource oriented and prosperous; a strategy to be assessed on its own terms rather than through Rostowian eyes. The emergence of FIFO (fly-in/fly-out) labour has been accompanied by novel geographies of connectivity within Australia, shifting positionalities and creating distinctive regional development patterns and challenges. These Western Australian issues pose questions also for resource peripheries elsewhere.
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Keywords: Resource peripheries; connectivity-based theory; fly-in/fly-out labour; mining; regional economic development; socio-spatial positionality; the Pilbara

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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