ENGAGING OPPORTUNITIES IN URBAN REVITALIZATION: PRACTICING DETROIT ANTHROPOLOGY

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Abstract

As an iconic postindustrial city, Detroit is a rich site for considering community engagement, key social issues, and urban renewal. Increasing national and international attention has focused on Detroit as an urban exemplar where political economy, social context, social justice, and social change interconnect in novel ways such that true innovation might occur. Wayne State University (WSU)—located in the heart of Detroit—faces this sociopolitical–economic reality as the backdrop for its educational mission. In this article, we discuss WSU's meaning to the city of Detroit over time; we also consider how WSU is responding to the current national dialogue about a need for new educational models that promote sustained and substantive engagement by urban universities in their surrounding communities. Our department's “Anthropology of the City” initiative that has a social science research and training agenda contributing to the redevelopment of the city is described. Lastly, we offer examples of WSU's involvement in community-engaged anthropology and discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by doing this work with a series of local partners in Detroit and the region.

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