Book: Unequal Detroit

Sharon is turning her dissertation research into a book, with as preliminary title “Unequal Detroit: Hardship and Privilege in an American City.”

After decades of deindustrialization, depopulation, and decline, the City of Detroit filed for Chapter IX bankruptcy in 2013. National media that once fueled the city’s notoriety as Murder Capital began to describe Detroit as place to be. Unequal Detroit shows a changing Detroit from the vantage point of Brightmoor, a poor majority black community on the city’s edge. Wildflower fields flourished here amidst hundreds of vacant homes. Residents saw wild deer as often as they heard gunshots. Yet, in the last decade, white newcomers had moved in. They bought houses from five hundred dollars and started gardens and farms on vacant lots.

Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork while she lived and became a homeowner in Brightmoor, she shows what happened when white newcomers moved next door to black and white Detroiters. Doing so, she offers new ways to think about place inequality. While urban scholars from Jacob Riis to Matthew Desmond have focused on inequalities betweenneighborhoods, neighborhoods have also always housed inequalities within. How could this place of profound disadvantage turn into a place to be for middle-class white newcomers? She helps answer this question, by showing how historical and current inequalities shaped how residents experienced depopulated Brightmoor differently. She theorizes experienced places as underappreciated dimension of the unequal city and argues that examining variations in how people experience places will help policy makers improve urban policy.

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