Ghosts, Devils, and the Undead City: Detroit and the Narrative of Monstrosity

Paul Draus, Juliette Roddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


As researchers working in Detroit, we have become sensitized to the rhetoric often deployed to describe the city, especially the vocabulary of monstrosity. While providing powerful images of Detroit's problems, insidious monster narratives also obscure genuine understanding of the city. In this article, we first discuss the city of Detroit itself, describing its place in the American and global social imaginary as a product of its particular history. Second, we consider the concept of monstrosity, particularly as it applies to urban environments. Following this, we relate several prevalent or popular categories of monster to descriptions of Detroit, considering what each one reveals and implies about the state of the city, its landscape and its people. Finally, we discuss how narratives of monstrosity may be engaged and utilized to serve alternative ends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
JournalSpace and Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Detroit
  • Drugs
  • Monstrosity
  • Social and spatial imaginary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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