Accepted Paper:

Moral landscapes, safety strategies, and fear management regimes in urban Detroit  

Author:

Kyrill Hirner (Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU))

Paper Short Abstract:

I study strategies of security and fear management in Detroit. Faced by high crime rates and stigmatization, residents and visitors debate ways how to calculate risk of crime by reading their surroundings. Different agents act upon the environment to inscribe their own regimes of fear management.

Paper long abstract:

After 9/11 academic interest shifted from fear in public space towards more abstract, global anxieties. Detroit, where I did field research between 2013 and 2015, is still shaped by the classic "fear of crime" anthropologists and criminologists focussed on since the 50ies. Like many US inner cities, the "black metropolis" became the complete Other for its white suburbs: a place of danger and crime, to some even a jungle of animalistic violence. Faced by high crime rates residents and visitors use various security strategies involving 'street smartness', knowledge of 'moral landscapes', and the skills of reading assumed signs in your surrounding. Having this knowledge is a point of pride, since it sets you apart from the (other) suburbanites. Yet not only the efficiency of those strategies is constantly debated, but its legitimacy is attacked on grounds of racism, classism, and historic claims to this contested city.

At the same time the various actors, residents, City government, or realtors, try to impose their regimes of fear management on those places they have stakes in. In many transitional areas the physical appearance became the window for the turf war between the various visions for the city's future. Collective clean-up days are interpreted as everything from display of 'care' to community making, thereby re-enacting the academic debate between subculture theory, environmental criminology, and individual pathologies.

My research followed the way people manage their fear of crime and gain or loose trust in a city that is still nicknamed "Murder Capital".

Panel P016
The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder