Imagined Boundaries: Discordant Narratives of Place and Displacement in Contemporary Detroit
AbstractContemporary Detroit is a space of material and symbolic unevenness. As concentrated pockets of the city start to see the effects of revitalization efforts, the majority of the city continues to lose population and resources. This dissertation questions how different types of stakeholders in the city make sense of these changes between the years 2010 and 2017, analyzing competing cultural frames about the meaning of the neighborhood and city across multiple stakeholder groups: long-term residents, large and small-scale real estate developers, city officials who work in redevelopment, and newcomers to the city. I use in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival data to understand the ways that these narratives about the neighborhood and city are constructed across time. I argue that the meanings of neighborhoods are reflected through mnemonic remembrances of Detroit’s Urban Renewal period, as well as different spatial scales of how the concept of gentrification is interpreted. Furthermore, the meaning of the neighborhood becomes more expansive in spaces and times of decline and conversely, more restrictive in spaces and times of growth. This dissertation makes contributions to sociological work on the study of narrative frames, symbolic and spatial boundary work, the social construction of authenticity, and the urban studies literature on spaces of decline and shrinking cities. It is also meant to serve as a translation tool between these different stakeholder groups in contemporary debates over redevelopment practices.
Detroitredevelopmentcultural displacementneighborhood narrative framesurban planning
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