This study seeks to understand how urban redevelopment efforts in Detroit reflect spatial politics and residents’ quality of life and vision for their community. Acknowledging that the spatial is composed of multiple dynamic components, my research employs a symbolic interactionist framework, in which the significance of social-spatial symbols is critically analyzed in assessment of redevelopment attitude and activity. I specifically focus on how details of a neighborhoods’ social-spatial fabric may encourage or discourage residents from initiating and participating in redevelopment activity.

The work explores redevelopment activity in the context of "unreal estate" spaces in which the purpose and definition of the space is "open" leaving room for potential re-identification and activation initiated by residents as opposed to more conventional and powerful development actors.

Drawing from grounded theory, my research takes a placed-based approach employing photographic visual methodologies, critical awareness observation, and semi-structured interviews, to gauge the development perspectives of residents, founders and corporate developers and to assess these perspectives against a structural, spatial backdrop.

This paper identifies dynamic, interrelated factors including one’s identity as a "true Detroiter" and resource constraints, that may affect how likely residents are to carry out redevelopment activity and what that activity will amount to. My work also suggest that residents who are able to directly develop space may feel a sense of re-enchantment as their efforts may result in the actualization of their community vision.


Fisher, Lisa


Sociology and Anthropology


Detroit, Urban Redevelopment, Visual Methodology, Resident Perspective, Exploratory, Photography, Blight

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Kathryn Osbourne