Boneyards of the Sortatropolis: Explorng a City of Industrial Secrets: Lansing, Michigan - Part 1

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Abstract

Cities hide secrets of themselves. They cannot help it: so many people live and move over their streets and sidewalks that the details of those moments cannot be recorded fast enough. Dead end roads, whose abandoned curbs rest with scars in the shadows – evidence of heavy machinery scraping its surface within close distance to railroad tracks, who now share their bed with weeds and trash leftover from another time. The Sortatropolis is a city whose history creates a ghostly dimension, one of haunting spaces where questions asked might never be answered: “What was this building? Where did this track go?”, with answers revealed in the tracings through history, and even then, an incomplete picture of what was. In this article, I use historic documents (newspapers, maps, and photographs), in addition to data from my own field work to construct an experience of haunting in Lansing, Michigan, which serves as the starting place for a project I refer to as the Sortatropolis. I suggest that the Sortatropolis can be used to engage critically with the past and expose the coordinated efforts of those in power to erase the past for the sake of a “future” promised by capitalist endeavors, namely to order and control, in other words, the politics of forgetting. Using queer theory, critical feminist theory, and theories of affect developed in the last several decades by social scientists, this article materializes the elements of nostalgia and romance as significant to the decisions policymakers enforce, and as imperative to the ways in which people remember what never happened. It is on the sidewalks of the Sortatropolis that we begin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-54
JournalMichigan Sociological Review
Volume31
StatePublished - Oct 2017

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