Detroit has always been perceived to fit certain ideals, historically and in recent years; but, these stereotypes do not always conform to the rich heritage of the city. There are many ways of “knowing” Detroit: through looking at the physical layout and design of the city itself, through people speaking out about community development aimed to form a positive perception of identity, and through listening to the popular cultures’ interpretation of Detroit as a whole.


Imagine driving down one of the massive highway systems headed into Detroit. As you look around, you see old abandoned architecture, broken windows, alluring murals and graffiti scaling the buildings. Nevertheless, entering downtown is entering history. There is much more to a cityscape than meets the eye, and Detroit is no different. Under the superficial layers of building architecture, civic art and road design, are the frameworks for Detroit’s existence.

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To listen to Detroit is to interpret it from the outside; and, throughout the 20th century, the city has been broadcast through a variety of noisy channels. While local music is a strikingly familiar proxy for the city’s changing identity, baseball also has a strong claim as an emblem for the city’s success. Finally, as a figure in pop culture’s imagination, Detroit has been used as the backdrop for a variety of stories. One question you can ask, then, is: how is Detroit’s identity constructed and understood in these contexts?

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A lot of people talk about the city of Detroit and it has been a major point of interest for scholarly work. However, speech is more than words, it’s about expressing yourself and being heard which is something Detroit has always been able to do. From nonviolent marches and community development projects which amalgamate the people of Detroit, to violent riots and independent newspapers dedicated to printing the truth, Detroit has historically proven itself as a city that isn’t afraid to raise their voice and be heard.

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