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‘This House Is Occupied’: Demolition Politics in the Belgian ‘spookstad’ of Doel

Last week I visited the small ghost town (“spookstad” in Dutch) of Doel in northwest Belgium. Doel has been at the center of an international controversy for the last two decades as the Port of Antwerp encroaches on the village to make way for a new container dock. In the late 1990s, the government began offering residents cash premiums to sell their homes. Many residents took the offer because the government had warned that if they didn’t, their homes would eventually be expropriated and they would receive little compensation. A group of holdouts has remained, however, actively protesting the town’s demolition.Continue reading “‘This House Is Occupied’: Demolition Politics in the Belgian ‘spookstad’ of Doel”

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Deconstructing Detroit: The Politics of ‘Reclamation’

I attended the Society for Historical Archaeology’s annual meeting in Washington DC in January and presented in the excellent, day-long session, “Contemporary and Historical Archaeologies of the City,” chaired by Krysta Ryzewski and Laura McAtackney. Presentations in this session featured research from all over the globe, from a jazz club in Detroit to a company town in Kentucky to contested memorial landscapes in Belfast. This post is a version of my paper, “The Archaeology of Urban Blight,” which I edited after getting feedback on the project and completing a bit more research.

Continue reading “Deconstructing Detroit: The Politics of ‘Reclamation’”

“I painted him as a monument”: Public Art as Protest in Detroit

This essay is my submission for Festival CHAT 2020. I’m very grateful to the organizers for hosting this phenomenal virtual event and giving us a way to connect and celebrate contemporary and historical archaeology in these difficult times.

Introduction

In this photo essay, I document and discuss three recent public art installations made in protest of police brutality against African Americans in Detroit, Michigan. These works of art—which range from informal yard signs to large-scale installations and commissioned works—connect Detroit to national discourse around police brutality by memorializing and honoring Black Detroiters killed by police alongside other, more recent victims of police violence elsewhere in the United States. They are often in conversation with other public memorials in the city, past and present, and they express collective grief, anger, support, exhaustion, and hope and encouragement for the future.

Continue reading ““I painted him as a monument”: Public Art as Protest in Detroit”

A ‘Non-plush Frog Emporium’: Historical Foodways and Culinary Tourism in Detroit

A ghost sign for Neunfeldt’s Frog Legs, formerly located on Fort St. near downtown Detroit

I recently noticed a ghost sign for Neunfeldt Frog Legs in Detroit for the first time. Knowing that frog legs were once a big part of Detroit’s food culture and economy, I decided to do a bit of research.Continue reading “A ‘Non-plush Frog Emporium’: Historical Foodways and Culinary Tourism in Detroit”