Association of Black Anthropologists
Oral Presentation Session
Detroit, Michigan has been laid before the world like a cadaver, executed by the twin barrels of industrial outsourcing and white flight, and now ripe for reanimation, revitalization, renaissance. This is the oft-repeated saga of contemporary Detroit - a fetishized collage of abandoned buildings, empty lots, extinguished dreams, and inevitable death that requires (white) corporate salvaging and salvation. But as Detroit’s long-time Black residents have shown, and as Detroit hip-hop artists continue to demonstrate, the report of this death is exaggeration at best, and willful deception at worst. Using first-hand ethnographic research, I explicate the myriad ways both practitioners and participants use the creation, performance, and consumption of hip-hop for the purposes of counternarrative, spatial reorientation, identity formation, placemaking, and other concerns in a rapidly changing city. Central to this is my theorization of the concept of ‘flipping’, the slang referring to a multitude of practices present in contemporary Detroit, including: the use of previously-recorded sounds in the construction of new hip-hop beats; the use of predetermined spaces for new purposes; and buying abandoned or foreclosed homes, making repairs, and reselling them for large profits. I argue that as space and place in Detroit are constantly restructured and recoded, people use musical aesthetics, performance, and the cultural knowledge created therein to craft new epistemologies of the city and the self, and to sustain Black epistemologies already in place.