Nature's Place as a Cultural Chameleon

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  • Title: Nature's Place as a Cultural Chameleon: The Case of Uluru (Ayers Rock)
  • Author(s): Richard Head
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Constructed Environment
  • Keywords: Nature, Space, Uluru, Indigenous, Tourism, Ayers Rock, Colonial/Post-Colonial
  • Year: 2019
  • ISBN (hbk): 978-1-86335-168-3
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-86335-169-0
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-86335-170-6
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Head, Richard . 2019. Nature's Place as a Cultural Chameleon: The Case of Uluru (Ayers Rock). Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-86335-170-6/CGP.
  • Extent: 312 pages


Uluru (Ayers Rock) is an extraordinary phenomenon—a distinctive and unique place of Nature, constructed from different layers of nature. The infrastructure layer is the Rock itself as imagined independently of cultural gaze, a place in and of itself created over timeless age through geological movement and weathering to what it is today (First-layered Nature). It is a ‘natural’ place so noticeable that one’s imagination is assaulted with images, resulting in multiple natural constructions influenced by cultural and societal background of diverse reactions to the ‘naturalness’ (Second-layered Nature). From the Indigenous Australian perspective for thousands of years up to contact with non-Aboriginal Australians, the Rock was a lived space and not just as a representational space, whereas non-Aboriginal Australians with their eye for capitalist advancement regard the Rock in terms of nature as commodity. The result of this capitalist ‘advancement’, has seen the non-Aboriginal Australian nature as commodity of the Rock translate it into a promoted place and space of natural tourist landscape (Third-layered Nature). From Uluru’s interlocking layers and the complexity of multicultural perceptions of the natures there, it is a focus of a contested place and space of worthwhile study. This is because the spatiality of its natures evolving over time mirrors the changing socio-cultural drivers of the wider society and beyond—a colonial/postcolonial melting pot of change, real and imagined, within a remote location far removed from the everyday, showing that even remote nature cannot evade the socio-cultural world’s life processes, creating a cultural chameleon of nature.