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Between Old and New: The Urban Impasse of Place Change in the Maker Movement

Authors: Steve Marotta*, Portland State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Affect, Place Change, Urban Geography, Creative Economy, Maker Movement
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant describes an impasse as “what it feels like to be in the middle of a shift” (2011; 198). This paper applies that notion of impasse to the experiences of small, artisanal manufacturers – collectively known as “makers” – in the rapidly changing cities of Detroit (MI) and Portland (OR). In both cities, makers were positioned within a nascent narrative of place transition captured by local juxtapositions between “old” and “new” (e.g. “Old Portland” and “New Portland”). Makers’ collective imagination of “old” and “new” was saturated with values and feelings that orbited an intensifying uncertainty about how to live and work within the contours and contradictions of each city’s changes. These changes introduced unique double binds that left makers to navigate the space between optimism and disenchantment, privilege and equity, opportunity and displacement. As a result, makers described a shared sense of loss or foreclosure emergent from the shift from “old” to “new.” The common response was an aspirational form of “Made in Place” branding that I argue served as an anchor for makers’ otherwise fraying place attachments. This branding, I conclude, reflected makers’ uncertainty about what was emerging in “New Detroit/Portland” and their collective role in what it meant for the people of each city.

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