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Ruin tours: performing and consuming decay in Detroit

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In the face of economic, demographic, and infrastructural decline, Detroit, Michigan, has become a destination for those interested in viewing the city’s iconic ruins. Paradoxically, such tours represent a form of economic development that takes urban decay as its object. Using data collected through participant observation, interviews, and document analysis, this study examines how such tours operate in relation to broader practices of urban redevelopment. It argues that tours are not only a way of turning the city into a site of consumption, but also a more complicated response to failures of industrial capitalism in which tour operators suggest different political modes of responding to the city’s decline. This is demonstrated by tracing the development of ruin tour programs and examining three representative cases of ruin tours. Examining how local actors respond to urban decline in this way strengthens urban geographic understandings of the post-industrial city and its recapitalization..
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Keywords: Detroit; place politics; post-industrial city; tourism; urban redevelopment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Urban Studies Program, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2020

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