On the Spatial Politics of Lawns: Community Preservation in Flint, Michigan

I often tell people that Flint, Michigan looks like a golf-course. Few believe me. When you say “Flint, Michigan,” the collective imagination conjures decaying pipes, abandoned houses, vacant strip malls, cracked pavement, the physical evidence of abandonment—but Flint does not, in fact, look “abandoned” in that way. A local land bank oversees the demolition of derelict properties and then cares for the empty lots that are left behind. As a result, Flint is a surreal landscape of rolling lawns dotted here and there by little homes, most of which are worn, clearly abandoned, or caving in. A few still have neat little gardens, and clean siding, but they are few. Most homes have been cleared away. In this paper, I discuss the spatial politics of decay in Flint through an ethnographic study of two individuals: Adam, a displaced anarchist squatter, and Lucille, a single mother and land bank official. I consider how the loss of the built environment has impacted them, allowing a deeper exploration of the physical, legal, racial, economic, criminological, and psycho-social aspects of decay by comparing the prefigurative political approaches that Lucille and Adam take in terms of decay. Understand how these unique managements of decay affect Lucille, Adam, & the community of Flint as a whole brings into focus how diverse communities cope with loss, and helps to better frame numerous issues facing post-industrial U.S. society, and the underlying tensions that fracture diverse communities apart.

The House has Eyes, or, how Objects Haunt our Present

Human beings cannot bear the thought of no longer being the center of the universe; Martin Heidegger’s ontology validates the construction of a world that subjugates non-human objects to a role which reinforces our own position. In this paper, two personal experiences of objects which contradict traditional construals of “subjectivity” will be explored and analyzed in light of contemporary uncertainty around Heidegger’s ontology. Ultimately, I seek to complexify and show the radical dependence humans have on the constructed—or, “second”—subjectivity of objects and how we use them to validate the world as we wish it to be seen.

Subversive Knowledge & the Negation of the City, or, the Awakening of the Critical-Manipulator

The cities of the American Midwest were once model capitalist cities, yet today these cities—now known as the “rust belt,”—bear no resemblance to the models they once were. In this paper I shall argue that this end was part of a teleological drive within capitalism which pushes the city towards utopia, but also towards its own destruction. These post-capital cities now contain an immanent possibility for critical resistance which can go beyond capitalism towards new social forms. This possibility arises due to the arousal of an innate drive towards survival which awakens a class of Critical-Manipulators who negate the city with the direct application of a subversive knowledge.