Dystopian dreams: Representation and Otherness in the post-industrial frontier of contemporary Detroit

Authors: C N Steacy*, University of Georgia
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Detroit, post-industrial landscapes, imaginative geography, ruins, critical race theory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Virginia C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The city of Detroit – (in)famously associated with racialized violence and abandonment, urban unrest, municipal bankruptcy and neoliberal renewal – is the United States’ premier site of post-industrial longing and mourning. This paper draws upon popular textual and visual representations of the city over the past decade to articulate the dominant tropes and trajectories by which the city has been popularly imagined, particularly since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007-2008. Then through a heuristic engagement with the concept of “ruin porn,” – representations of post-industrial landscapes that highlight the aesthetic and emotive aspects of “ruined” landscapes by rejecting socio-historical specificity - this paper interrogates how through themes such as nostalgia, trauma, and (re)nature, Detroit has been imagined both as an abject landscape symbolizing radical Otherness and as a new ‘post-racial frontier,’ open to affective and material reinvestment.

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