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Accepted Paper:

Working outside of the Frame: Municipal Placemaking and Coalition Building in Detroit, USA  


Ana Cukovic (Central European UniversityUniversity of Vienna)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper demonstrates how an office within the City of Detroit enacts placemaking efforts in times of municipal marginalization, political uncertainty, and financial austerity through partnerships and projects that can be viewed as outside of the municipal frame.

Paper long abstract:

Recent scholarship on urban redevelopment highlights a myriad of ways on how cities are remade and reimagined under different political conditions. However, little attention has been given to municipal change and the workers who simultaneously facilitate and experience that change. For Detroit, USA, a city undergoing processes of urban redevelopment in the aftermath of the 2013 bankruptcy, migrant communities are seen as vital to the broader political goals of economic growth and repopulation. As such, the inauguration of Office of Immigrant Affairs in 2015 saw the importance of political, economic, and cultural capital such communities bring. However, the OIA remains underfunded and administration's support, particularly in the current federal climate and Trump's adverse immigration policies, resounds to silence.

Building on ethnographic data, my research demonstrates processes of municipal placemaking as a way of securing provision of services to residents and ensuring political viability within the municipal hierarchy. I argue that during these times: a) bureaucratic coalition building with community organizations and institutions becomes critical in ensuring that migrant needs are addressed; b) these coalitions serve as a stronger and fortified voice in setting the policies and agendas for current and subsequent municipal administrations; and c) moving along unconventional lines and beyond the municipal frames becomes paramount. As such, municipal workers find ways to ensure their place within the bureaucratic structure and also forge spaces for different, traditionally absent voices to participate and shape political processes and city policy.

Panel P079
Politicized bureaucrats in and beyond Europe: conflicting loyalties, professionalism and the law in the making of public services [LAWNET]