Urban Ethics

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Kyrill Hirner

Young Urban Creatives in Detroit
Kyrill Hirner (Anthropology, LMU)

Currently the City of Detroit is both stigmatized and hyped. Under the name "murder city" it became a national symbol for economic decline, poverty, and criminality. But during the last years it also started to attract the (in)famous "Young Urban Creatives"; affluent and mostly white young people moving in from the suburbs that surround the "Black Metropolis", lured downtown by cheap rents and the promised abundance of space. They give rise to the growing discourse of 'hope', ideas for a different society within a different city that parallel the official discourse of economic 'opportunity'.

Those new residents mean different things to different people: to the city government they are the turning of the tide, an influx of well-educated breadwinners capable of forming a new tax base for the bankrupt city. They like to perceive themselves as pioneers and entrepreneurs re-building a city that their parents generation left to fall. They are not afraid of the city's dangers and focus on the available space for utopias. Long-term Detroit residents, however, are wary about this influx: not only is there a emotional discussion whether the “newbies” are pushing out residents that actually stood up for their city in times of scarcity or whether gentrification is necessary to alleviate the city's financial crisis. Even more, residents are critical of becoming a canvas for the utopias of others. While more and more of the old Black Power movements cease to exist, there is little interaction between the newcomers' social movements and long-established neighborhoods. My research followed the discoursive and material strategies the various groups use to claim or defend their territory, and their way of telling the story of the city's recent and future changes.