Villawood 18a - The Vernacular Violence of Suburban Deathscapes


The Vernacular Violence of Suburban Deathscapes

The serial deaths in custody documented in this case study did not transpire on some remote offshore prison. Rather, they unfolded in an immigration detention centre situated within a suburban setting, Villawood, that, in turn, is located in Australia’s largest metropolis, Sydney.

The very civilian and urban fabric that surrounds this site of institutionalised violence works to produce a type of routinised, vernacular violence that cannot be read as violence as such: this is a violence made invisible by its very vernacularity.  The vernacular and “ordinary: features of this quintessential Australian suburb – with its native trees and its non-descript suburban homes – belie the anguish and suffering that takes place in Villawood’s immigration prison.

“Ordinary” Australia is what enables – legislatively, culturally and spatially — the exercise of vernacular violence.  It is the very vernacularity of this violence, its very ordinariness, which enables it to occlude its everyday production of violence. (Pugliese, Civil Modalities)

Vernacular violence, in the context of Villawood immigration prison, is what is routinely produced through the everyday deployment of the Immigration Department’s ‘normal compliance operations.’ It is what transmutes a suburban site into a deathscape.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.