HARVARD UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY DISSERTATION DEFENSE
"Domesticating Detroit: An Ethnography of Creativity in a Postindustrial Frontier"
Presented by Julia Yezbick
Monday, April 11, 2016
3:30 p.m. in Tozzer 203
Film screening of How to Rust
Followed by oral defense
“Domesticating Detroit” is an ethnographic investigation into the intersecting worlds of artistic practice, creativity, real estate, philanthropy, and urban revitalization through the material lens of the single-family home. Throughout Detroit's history, single-family homes have been fought for and neglected, the object of real estate speculation and artistic appropriation, symbols of the American middle-class, and means of racial discrimination. Today, the sheer quantity of vacant single-family homes, estimated at 30,0000, makes them one of Detroit's most easily exploitable and malleable resources. Amid public discourse of Detroit’s long-awaited renaissance, they have become a renewed site of control and subversion, an ostensible indicator of the city’s health, and the philosophical, material, and political site in which urban transformations are envisioned, enacted, and engaged.
HOW TO RUST: Detroit artist Olayami Dabls’ installation “Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust” is a metaphor for the forced assimilation of Africans to European culture and language. Here Dabls’ bricolage of the postindustrial landscape becomes a commentary on the half-life of Fordism, where the relationship between cultural production, history, and place is recast, revealing larger truths about how we mythologize a former glory and shape an imagined future.