Understanding Urban Processes in Flint, Michigan: Approaching ‘Subaltern Urbanism’ Inductively


  • The author would like to thank Mark Davidson, Yuko Aoyama, John Lauermann, Oona Morrow, Rory Horner, Jonathan Kennedy and Chris Moffat for commenting on earlier versions of this article. Four IJURR reviewers also provided valuable comments. The usual disclaimers apply.


Ananya Roy introduces the concept ‘subaltern urbanism’ in her 2011 article ‘Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism’. She challenges researchers to move beyond existing epistemological and methodological limits, and offers four concepts which, taken together, serve as a useful starting point for understanding and representing subaltern urban space. In this article I argue that instead of a deductive approach that begins with an a priori identification of slums as subaltern urban space, an inductive approach of identifying subaltern urban space would expand the concept and show that subaltern urbanism exists in the global North. I present original research to show that Flint, Michigan, can be considered subaltern urban space. In the final section of the article I argue that this inductive approach to subaltern urbanism can foster comparative research across the North-South divide, and generate the transfer of knowledge from South to North.