Skeletons on the Riverbank: Life and Death on the River Street Bridge in the Sortatropolis

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There is a politic buried in infrastructure. Roads, lights, sewers, sidewalks, water, bridges – all come to the public through a series of collective decisions. It is the collective decision that starves them to death as well, until they turn to dust, blown away to time. In 1890, the city of Lansing, Michigan had six roadway bridges that crossed the Grand River, each providing connections from one side of a growing urban space to another. Each bridge, essential for the transportation of materials to the booming factory life of the capital city. The River Street bridge connected the industrial side of the city with neighborhoods housing workers. Only the River Street Bridge and the Washington Street bridge connected these growing living spaces with the industries that employed them in the south part of the city. For nearly 100 years, the River Street bridge connected labor to industry – surviving numerous turnovers in governing ideologies – until 1987, when it was finally demolished. How did this bridge turn to bones, jutting out from the riverbank? There is a politic to bridges. This is the story of municipal failure – predicated on movements, racism, and simulations of democratic process: demolition by neglect.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - Oct 2017
EventMichigan Sociological Association - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Duration: Oct 1 2017Oct 31 2017


ConferenceMichigan Sociological Association


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