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Black City Under Surveillance: Race, Place, and Mobility along the Detroit Riverfront

Authors: William Daniels*, Bowling Green State University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Black Geographies, Black Cities, Racialized Surveillance, Race, Place
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


My research project will investigate recent incidents of auditory and visual surveillance
that occurred in public spaces in Detroit, such as The Riverwalk, Hart Plaza, and Downtown.
The installation of surveillance cameras in public space such as the Project Greenlight program,
and the excessive enforcement of noise ordinances in public spaces along the riverfront and in
public parks often works in tandem with recent economic developments, such as the
gentrification of existing housing, as well as new housing construction near the Downtown area,
and the Detroit riverfront. I am particularly interested in tracing how nuisance laws have
historically been used by law enforcement officers in order to criminalize racial and economic
minorities.

I also plan to investigate how the creation of the modern Detroit Police force, after the
Detroit Riot of 1863, was linked to issues of racial profiling during the 19th century. I contend
that noise violations, as well as vagrancy laws and “broken windows” policing, are policies that
were instituted in order to control African Americans in public space. I argue that polices of
control, such as Slave Codes and Black Codes, have left a legacy of racialized enforcement of
laws regarding elements such as, class markers, behavior, and access to public space.

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