Detroit: the fascination for urban decay

Since its bankruptcy, Detroit is receiving increasing attention from the media and from urban researchers. Here you will find a brief analysis of the literature.

Detroit

For Europeans of my generation, Detroit was a faraway industrial city with lots of problems and violence that we could only see in movies. In Beverly Hills Cop (Superdetective en Hollywod in Spanish, 1984) Axel Foley was travelling from a decadent Detroit to Beverly Hills to resolve the murder of his (ex-convict) friend.  In Robocop (1987) the city council of Detroit privatises the police service in a context of a city hit by unemployment and violence. Robocop fights drug lords in derelict factories whereas there is a project to refurbish the city centre into the ‘Delta City’ project, a new town centre providing millions of jobs and urban regeneration (yes, many have seen the movie as prophetic). Later, thanks to Michael Moore we knew a bit more about Michigan and its industrial basis, social and racial segregation and rising inequalities. No much more from Detroit was known until the financial crisis, when all the media started to analyse the case of Detroit as a failed city, and also urban studies started to take a look on the city. Abandoned houses, lack of public transportation, decline of manufacturing activities, decreasing of population by a half and bankruptcy have brought international attention to the city. In the most read newspaper in Spain, El País, there has been an article on Detroit every three or four months.

Continue reading →