Unbuilding a City
This chapter sets up the conjuncture in the 2010s when the study took place. It was a period marked by fiscal crisis, the launch of a planning process, and intense national and international interest in Detroit’s decline and rebirth. The chapter argues for rethinking dominant narratives of Detroit’s decline, which center on deindustrialization and white flight, instead arguing for a more active understanding of how property organizes the politics of abandonment. It makes three interventions: First, it emphasizes that urban abandonment under neoliberalism must be studied in a longer history of racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and slavery. Second, it argues that it is imperative to enrich understandings of how the discourse of abandonment—and its categorical deployment—shapes urban planning and governance decisions and the stakes thereof. Finally, it argues that studies of land struggles reveal how property organizes abandonment and, above all, how communities imagine more just geographical arrangements.