A Detroit Story: Urban Decline and the Rise of Property Informality (Hardcover)
Bringing to the fore a wealth of original research, A Detroit Story examines how the informal reclamation of abandoned property has been shaping Detroit for decades. Claire Herbert lived in the city for almost five years to get a ground-view sense of how this process molds urban areas. She participated in community meetings and tax foreclosure protests, interviewed various groups, followed scrappers through abandoned buildings, and visited squatted houses and gardens. Herbert found that new residents with more privilege often have their back-to-the-earth practices formalized by local policies, whereas longtime, more disempowered residents, usually representing communities of color, have their practices labeled as illegal and illegitimate. She teases out how these divergent treatments reproduce long-standing inequalities in race, class, and property ownership.
"An exceptional piece of urban ethnography. . . . While one might be tempted to situate such a countermovement in the gentrification literature, Herbert’s work insists on a more complex interpretation, one that could extend the immense amount she has already taught us about property relations under duress."
— Social Forces
"This is an important book."
— AAG Review of Books
"A Detroit Story is an original and engaging book on a well-researched city. . . . [It] provides an invaluable contribution to urban studies research and is relevant for researchers in myriad disciplines as well as upper division undergraduate and graduate students. Anyone with an interest in Detroit and shrinking cities, as well as planners and policymakers who work in these contexts, will also appreciate the assessment of how—albeit unintentionally—planning and policy can and will reproduce inequality if they fail to recognize how people live and why."
— International Journal of Urban Regional Research
"A Detroit Story is a deeply, even lovingly, Detroit-focused book. There is a risk in studying such a unique and fascinating place: informality in Detroit is at once relatively well-trodden ground and at the same time not obviously full of parallels for other cities or broader concepts. Yet Herbert points this out, makes connections to other “postgrowth” cities, and makes the excellent point that property informality is enacted and experienced differently across social contexts. The result is a uniquely sociological contribution to the literature on urban informality and to how we understand property outside of real estate."
— American Journal of Sociology