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Title: The construction of emptiness and the re-colonisation of Detroit
Author: Cherry, Liev
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 0994
Awarding Body: Queen Mary University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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Once a city of two million people, and the centre of US car manufacture, Detroit's fortunes have been in steady decline since the mid twentieth century, when the industry that built it began to downsize and relocate production away from the United States. Decades of disinvestment and racial division left a city with central neighbourhoods sparsely populated and crumbling, while resources and services were concentrated in wealthier suburbs. In recent years, the city's landscape has come to be emblematic of post-industrial decline, urban blight and civic abandonment. My research adopts a mixed-methods ethnographic approach to argue that this framing of the city is in fact a deeply ideological one, with constructions of Detroit as empty and chaotic serving to lay the groundwork for a large-scale project of re-colonisation, which draws simultaneously on discourses of greening and redemption. Narratives of abandonment and the re-emergence of urban 'nature' work together to reclaim the city in the interests of a mobile elite whose 'white flight', widely cited as the source of Detroit's problems, never flew much further than the suburbs. Drawing on news media, documentary film, television, photography, semi-structured interviews and extended periods of participant observation in Detroit between 2012 and 2014, I show how constructions of emptiness, a wilful fictionalisation of Detroit's recent history, narratives of greening and a pervasive investment in structures of white supremacy serve to create a Detroit in which wholesale gentrification may be put forward as a social good.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Detroit ; ethnographics