Promised Land: The Politics of Abandonment and the Struggle for a New Detroit


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Over the last half-century, Detroit has suffered steady job loss and population decline. Now the ‘Motor City’ is being promoted as a laboratory for twenty-first century urbanism. Yet, even as actors in the city and beyond proclaim a renaissance, Detroit remains a site of persistent racialized poverty. Based on institutional and community-based ethnography, this dissertation analyzes the contentious politics of land and property through case studies of city planning, emergency management and finance capital, green development, and social movements. Struggles around Detroit’s abandoned’ lands reflect larger tensions associated with a neoliberal shift in urban governance worldwide. The research illuminates the complex interplay of race, sovereignty, citizenship, and governance, in the contemporary US city, and uses property as a lens to examine how competing visions for Detroit are drawing new lines of inclusion and exclusion.