Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationMichigan, Ann Arbor, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9326
Approve DateOctober 5, 2016
Project TitleCaverly, Nicholas L., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'What Remains: Building Removal, Worker Retraining, and Toxic Materials in Detroit,' supervised by Dr. Erik Mueggler
NICHOLAS CAVERLY, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received a grant in October 2016 to aid research on “What Remains: Building Removal, Worker Retraining, and Toxic Materials in Detroit,” supervised by Dr. Erik Mueggler. This project examined how the lived realities of structural inequalities – specifically racism, economic opportunity, and environmental burden – are both confronted and reproduced through spatial management. It did so by way of vacant building demolition in Detroit, a city where 40,000 empty buildings index decades of racialized disinvestment. Since 2014, hundreds of millions in public funds have been funneled into private enterprises that demolish buildings and train formerly incarcerated people to labor on demolition sites. Such programs were authorized on grounds that they help develop a “financially stable and decontaminated city.” Nevertheless, state regulators drafted memos describing how tearing buildings down with specialized equipment dispersed asbestos laden dust into the lungs of workers and surrounding residents. This project used ethnographic fieldwork in living rooms, non-profit offices, regulatory hearings, excavator cabs, legal proceedings, and training facilities to examine how the transformation of Detroit’s vacant buildings has enabled the redistribution land, work, and toxins. By following how demolitions render the products of racialized systems of property, industry, and mass incarceration into freshly unequal accumulations of territory, profit, and contamination, this project found how systems of privilege and marginalization endure through the destruction of their material remains.