Claire W. Herbert’s book, A Detroit Story: Urban Decline and the Rise of Property Informality, was published by University of California Press in March 2021. Dr. Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Oregon.
Bringing to the fore a wealth of original research, A Detroit Story examines how the informal reclamation of abandoned property has been shaping Detroit for decades. Claire Herbert lived in the city for almost five years to get a ground-view sense of how this process molds urban areas. She participated in community meetings and tax foreclosure protests, interviewed various groups, followed scrappers through abandoned buildings, and visited squatted houses and gardens. Herbert found that new residents with more privilege often have their back-to-the-earth practices formalized by local policies, whereas longtime, more disempowered residents, usually representing communities of color, have their practices labeled as illegal and illegitimate. She teases out how these divergent treatments reproduce long-standing inequalities in race, class, and property ownership.