I grew up in Ann Arbor. I wasn’t through my senior year of high school before I started coming to Detroit. I felt a really strong pull towards the city… It felt like an adventure, but mostly I thought I could learn about the ‘real world’ instead of the safe, small town I’d known.
At first all I could see of the city was its history– the old buildings make the city a sort of palimpsest, written and rewritten with all of the many meanings left behind.
But through my Cultural Anthropology studies at U of M, I began to understand Detroit a little deeper. A partner and I did a semester-long research project into the structure of urban gardening projects here. We analyzed how the city government, chain stores, non-profit organizers and residents have shaped a tremendous movement here. We tried to re-define it against food security movements in American history.
For an anthropology class that talked about urban renewal and cities’ sexual geography, I wrote a research paper on strip clubs in Detroit. The city council has been using policy to carefully shape the number and location of strip clubs since their proliferation right after 1967. Using some of the fragmented city archives, I tried to string together the laws & court cases on “Group D/topless cabarets” against their number through time.
The research for these two papers took me to parts of the city I would have never thought to go to otherwise: school gardens, pool halls, the city-county building… I love getting to know the people here, and the chance they give me to be closer to the city’s heart & soul.
To me, this place is like a kitchen for our country– a place where I can learn in bold relief about capitalism, post-industrialism, unionizing, race, struggle, and hope. I am hoping it will shape my worldview, and help me decide just what I plan to do with M.O.W.A.P. life.