Mellon Forum: Settler Colonial Urbanism: From Waawiyaataanong to Detroit at Little Caesars Arena

Settler Colonial Urbanism: From Waawiyaataanong to Detroit at Little Caesars Arena

Andrew Herscher, University of Michigan and Miguel Robles-Duran, Parsons School of Design

March 4 / 12pm / SoA South Gallery                     

In the summer of 2017, a 45-block development near downtown Detroit named “The District” opened for business. A vast complex of buildings anchored by Little Caesars Arena, a new stadium for Detroit’s professional hockey and basketball teams, The District is the largest outcome of the destruction of the working-class and multi-racial Cass Corridor neighborhood and its reformulation as “Midtown,” a spatial product qua neighborhood for the creative class professionals that the corporate interests, foundations, and municipal officials attempting to shape Detroit see as vital to the city’s contemporary redevelopment.

Little Caesars Arena includes the “1701 Pub,” named for the year when French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established a trading post and fort at the place where the city of Detroit would subsequently develop—a place known as Waawiyaataanong to the Anishinaabeg people who inhabited and traversed it. While community-based activism has made frequent reference to settler colonialism to contest contemporary urban displacement, settler colonialism has not gained much purchase in contemporary architectural and urban theory. In an effort to gain some of this purchase, Herscher explores the urban development that the 1701 Pub is part of as an iteration of ongoing settler colonialism—a process of conjoined settlement, unsettlement, and resettlement that connects a succession of moments of urban development in Detroit to the city’s colonial origin-point.

The Spring 2019 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment is organized by Princeton Mellon Fellows Nasser Abourahme and Noam Shoked. "Locating Politics" takes up the rise and fall of recent uprisings as a springboard for examining a broader inventory and longer trajectory of spaces of contestation. The Forum is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Humanities Council; Center for Collaborative History; Program in Judaic Studies; Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia; Program in American Studies; Program in African Studies; and the departments of Art & Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies. Events are free and open to the public.