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Unbecoming place: urban imaginaries in transition in Detroit

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/07/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>cultural geographies
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)441-458
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The population of Detroit has been steadily declining since the 1950s, but the imaginaries that shape the city are in constant transformation, changing with each successive government or regeneration initiative. Since 2010, downtown Detroit has been targeted by blight removal projects, real-estate speculation and redevelopment plans. These growth-oriented imaginaries shape the ways in which place is perceived and encountered – materially and conceptually – often responding to ruin and decay with erasures and evictions that play out through cultural geographies of precarity, simultaneously disappearing and reproducing conditions of inequality. The changes in the city are reflected in my own experiences of Detroit in 2009 and 2015, using walking and driving methods to support grounded and emplaced encounters with the ‘unbecoming’ ruins in the city. The city of 2009 is being replaced – in imagination, and in reality – by a new way of thinking about Detroit, which asks us to imagine differently, to positively re-envision the future possibilities for growth and change. This article interrogates the different imaginaries of regeneration in the city and considers, through urban ruins, places that are absent from the new way of thinking Detroit. Through Berlant’s ‘precarity’ and Massey’s ‘emplacement’, this discussion reveals a complex process of unbecoming that is typified in the unstable material, cultural and historical geographies that structure the experience of place in Detroit.