Faculty Grant Awardee: Catherine Fennell, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Ends of the House: Racism and Remediation in the Late Industrial Midwest

Catherine Fennell, Associate Professor of Anthropology

In America's late industrial urban Midwest, decades of residential displacement, disinvestment, and demolition tied to racism have produced expansive tracts of vacant lots that are at once ecologically compromised, peculiarly pastoral, and ripe for redevelopment. Long term renters and homeowners in "hyper vacant" urban neighborhoods worry over displacements driven by ongoing affordable housing crises, regressive taxation, and gentrification. They also worry about the vacant homes still in their midst and the substances they give off when pulled apart by weather, arson, deferred maintenance, scavengers or wreckers. Policy and development interests and community groups throughout the region have nevertheless turned to such neighborhoods to anchor greening initiatives that range everywhere from sustainable housing projects to food production and flood management.

Social scientists have long framed urban housing as a critical economic and racial justice issue. Professor Fennell's research positions housing's maintenance, destruction, and disposal as an equally urgent environmental justice matter. Based on ethnographic and archival research in Chicago and Detroit as well as emerging collaborations with archaeologists and other scientists, this project examines how various groups of people encounter and understand the debris of destroyed homes as it has settled into bodies, inspired reuse initiatives, and become repurposed as urban fill. The research groups aims for writing but also collaborative excavations and pedagogical programs pitched at helping urbanites and urbanists better grasp the uneven, expansive and shifting waste landscapes at our feet.

Learn more about Professor Catherine Fennell here.

This project was funded through the Office of the Provost Grants Program for Mid-Career Faculty who Contribute to the Diversity Goals of the University.