Dodging rocks and baseball bats: Stories of territory, tourism and trespassing in Detroit neighborhoods

Paul Draus, Juliette Roddy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over a decade conducting fieldwork in the city of Detroit, we traipsed across many unseen boundaries. In one depopulated neighborhood, we walked among buildings that appeared to be abandoned, only to have rocks tossed in our direction. On another occasion, an attempt to elicit community perspective on a non-profit-led development brought a man and his son looking for us with baseball bats. In this neighborhood, we confronted the complex mixture of sentiments related to a large nonprofit that hoped to lift the whole area through strategic investment. In an industrial neighborhood undergoing rapid transition due to a massive buyout program, we saw the disruption of communities and lives happening faster than we could capture them. We tried to track these processes and we largely failed, though we did capture some traces, which we will share. Our obliviousness and our ethnicity marked us as outsiders, or tourists, trying to bring something meaningful back after a brief venture into other peoples’ terrain. We tried to do so with respect and discretion, but the fact was that we were usually there without anyone asking us to come, to fulfill research goals defined on paper and in the abstract, though often in consultation with community-based organizations and residents. Our attempts were sometimes welcomed, and sometimes turned back as just another form of encroachment. This chapter uses these and other examples to make plain the contested nature of fieldwork in zones of transition. We conclude by reflecting on territory, tourism and responsibility in urban fieldwork.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTerritories, Environments, Politics
Subtitle of host publicationExplorations in Territoriology
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781000568431
ISBN (Print)9781032051666
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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