Awakening to Ruins

I’m reading through Robert Ginsberg’s The Aesthetics of Ruin (2004) again and came across this wonderful poem he wrote about the different options for a ruin (120):

Awakening to ruins necessitates making choices. These choices of what to do about the ruins are choices of who the community is.

Choice for Ruin

tear it down

rebuild it

leave it alone

forget about it

build on top of it

move it to a museum

clean it up

use it for something else

landscape it

pave around it for a parking lot

put in a service road

forbid highway access

fence it in

erect a ticket booth

write a guidebook for it

sell reproductions and postcards

permit guided tours

make it a national monument

seek designation as a World Heritage Site

denounce it as a local eyesore

mow the grass

let it grow

put in lighting

put on sound-and-light shows

sell ice cream

install toilets

add gift shop

tear down contiguous structures

employ guardians

advertise on posters

distribute brochures

build interpretive center

introduce telephones

sell color film

support scholarly research

open tea house.


Ginsberg, Robert. 2004. The Aesthetics of Ruins. New York: Rodopi.

Curated Ruins and Un-Memorials: The Afterlife of Detroit’s Michigan Theater

I came across Gabriel Moshenska’s Curated Ruins and the Endurance of Conflict Heritage (2015) via Twitter last week, which happily coincided with my first visit to Detroit’s former Michigan Theater (there’s a gallery at the bottom of the post). Though Moshenksa focuses on the ruins of conflict and violence (specifically World War II ruins in Europe) in his piece, it got me thinking about whether some of the concepts from his article could apply to Detroit’s abandoned structures, as well.

In this post, I’ll discuss the life history of the Michigan before turning to Moshenska’s discussion of “curation” and how histories of violence and conflict impact the way we perceive and care for the built environment.

Continue reading “Curated Ruins and Un-Memorials: The Afterlife of Detroit’s Michigan Theater”

All Aboard the ‘Hipster Bus’: Ethnography and Dereliction Tourism

I recently went on an “urbex tour” with one of the more visible tour operators in the metro Detroit area. I went for a few reasons: I was planning on taking my students to the city and wanted to check this tour out before I took them on it; my research focuses on blight in Detroit and this is one of the ways that people see and experience blight (specifically industrial blight, but also neighborhood blight) in the city; and I wanted to compare the dynamic of an organized, paid urban exploration tour with that of the more informal, “traditional” urban exploration outings that I’ve observed and participated in.

In this post, I’ll explore the difference between urban exploration and dereliction tourism, discuss my experiences of the tour, and talk about the ethical implications of dereliction tourism for ethnographic researchers living and working in postindustrial communities.

Continue reading “All Aboard the ‘Hipster Bus’: Ethnography and Dereliction Tourism”