Award Year: 
2018
Rebecca J. Kinney

Beautiful Wasteland: The Rise of Detroit as America's Postindustrial Frontier reveals the contemporary story of Detroit’s rebirth as an upcycled version of the American Dream, which has long imagined access to work, home and upward mobility as race-neutral projects. Rebecca Kinney tackles key questions about the future of postindustrial America, and shows how the narratives of Detroit’s history are deeply steeped in material and ideological investments in whiteness. As cities around the country reckon with their own postindustrial landscapes, she cautions that development that elides considerations of race and class will only continue to replicate uneven access to the city for the poor, working class and people of color.   

Rebecca J. Kinney is an interdisciplinary teacher and scholar of race, place and popular culture. She is an assistant professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University. Dr. Kinney’s book, Beautiful Wasteland: The Rise of Detroit as America’s Postindustrial Frontier (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) argues that contemporary stories told about Detroit’s potential for rise enables the erasure of white privilege and systemic racism in the past and present. Through situating Detroit as “beautiful wasteland” she examines how the racialized mythology of the frontier in American culture is redeployed in the stories we tell about the rise, fall and potential for rise again in Detroit. She is currently at work on a book-length study, Rust Belt Chinatowns: Restaurants, Race, and Redevelopment in the Twenty First Century which analyzes the complexities of race and redevelopment.