Nicholas Lawrence Caverly

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts, Amherst, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10553

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Caverly, Nicholas (Massachusetts, Amherst, U. of) "Demolishing Detroit: How Structural Racism Takes Place"

This manuscript examines social, technical, and spatial dimensions of empty building demolitions in Detroit, Michigan to understand how and why structural racism endures through place. Wrecking crews have toppled hundreds of thousands of buildings in Detroit. Neighbors and administrators alike celebrate demolitions as clearing away structures of racist disinvestment to facilitate economic and environmental uplift for the majority-Black city. Drawing from a decade of ethnographic research complemented by analysis of administrative and regulatory archives, this manuscript examines how demolitions reconfigure neighborhoods, jobsites, technologies, and people. It situates how demolitions create racially unequal distributions of land, work, profit, and contamination from empty buildings. Antiblack outcomes are not caused by biased people like administrators, contractors, regulators, and policymakers. Rather, the racist consequences of demolitions emerge from the material constructions of buildings, heavy equipment operations, regulatory paradigms, and regional landscapes. In conversation with Black Detroiters and demolition workers, the manuscript connects how the accumulation of wealth and benefits in majority white places relies on racist distributions of injury, toxicity, and precarity elsewhere. Ultimately, the manuscript demonstrates how white supremacy and racial capitalism are more than caustic social constructs to be unthought. They are structural landscapes to be rebuilt in the service of repair.