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DIY Detroit

Making Do in a City without Services

2016
Author:

Kimberley Kinder

DIY Detroit

When public services fail, neighbors step in to keep a city alive

Stuck in a blighted city without basic services such as a bus line, what Detroit’s residents are left with after decades of disinvestment and decline is DIY urbanism—sweeping their own streets, maintaining public parks, and boarding up empty buildings. DIY Detroit describes a phenomenon that has become woefully routine as inhabitants of deteriorating cities “domesticate” public services in order to get by.

Kimberley Kinder’s DIY Detroit is a clever, beautifully written account of everyday life in the wake of conventional market collapse and decades of austerity. It describes the ways that Detroiters have adapted, often defensively, always informally, sometimes illegally, to life without conventional markets and routine municipal services.

Jason Hackworth, author of Neoliberal City

For ten years James Robertson walked the twenty-one-mile round-trip from his Detroit home to his factory job; when his story went viral, it brought him an outpouring of attention and support. But what of Robertson’s Detroit neighbors, likewise stuck in a blighted city without services as basic as a bus line? What they’re left with, after decades of disinvestment and decline, is DIY urbanism—sweeping their own streets, maintaining public parks, planting community gardens, boarding up empty buildings, even acting as real estate agents and landlords for abandoned homes.

DIY Detroit describes a phenomenon that, in our times of austerity measures and market-based governance, has become woefully routine as inhabitants of deteriorating cities “domesticate” public services in order to get by. The voices that animate this book humanize Detroit’s troubles—from a middle-class African American civic activist drawn back by a crisis of conscience; to a young Latina stay-at-home mom who has never left the city and whose husband works in construction; to a European woman with a mixed-race adopted family and a passion for social reform, who introduces a chicken coop, goat shed, and market garden into the neighborhood. These people show firsthand how living with disinvestment means getting organized to manage public works on a neighborhood scale, helping friends and family members solve logistical problems, and promoting creativity, compassion, and self-direction as an alternative to broken dreams and passive lifestyles.

Kimberley Kinder reveals how the efforts of these Detroiters and others like them create new urban logics and transform the expectations residents have about their environments. At the same time she cautions against romanticizing such acts, which are, after all, short-term solutions to a deep and spreading social injustice that demands comprehensive change.

DIY Detroit

Kimberley Kinder is assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Politics of Urban Water: Changing Waterscapes in Amsterdam.

DIY Detroit

Kimberley Kinder’s DIY Detroit is a clever, beautifully written account of everyday life in the wake of conventional market collapse and decades of austerity. It describes the ways that Detroiters have adapted, often defensively, always informally, sometimes illegally, to life without conventional markets and routine municipal services.

Jason Hackworth, author of Neoliberal City

The book moves easily between personal and neighborhood stories, and big-picture reflections. The thinking is of high quality and the prose is readable rather than academic.

Planning Magazine

DIY Detroit

Contents
Introduction: Self-Provisioning in Detroit
1. Do-It-Yourself Cities
2. Seeking New Neighbors
3. Protecting Vacant Homes
4. Repurposing Abandonment
5. Domesticating Public Works
6. Policing Home Spaces
7. Producing Local Knowledge
Conclusion: Triumphs of Hope over Reason
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index