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Detroit River Story Lab: Community Narratives and Carbon Economies

March 28 @ 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Detroit River Story Lab: Community Narratives and Carbon Economies
Rebecca Hardin and David Porter, University of Michigan

Monday, Mar. 28, Open Talks will be held noon to 1pm, and the Grad Workshops will be held 1 to 3pm.
In-person in ISR-Thompson 6050
Presentations will also be available online via Zoom

U-M’s Detroit River Story Lab is comprised of interdisciplinary faculty, partnering with a wide array of Michigan based organizations in efforts to reconnect residents with the Detroit River. The Story Lab uses the term “narrative infrastructure” to refer both to the fabric of shared stories that binds a given community together and the pipelines and platforms by which these stories are circulated and elevated. For decades, the needs of Detroit riverside communities’ have been framed in terms of physical infrastructure (transportation, utilities, etc). Today, community leaders and scholars alike have recognized how the arts, civic life, local journalism, and public history are also critical to social cohesion and vitality. Alongside Detroit’s legacies of inequity due to pollution, the privatization of shorelands, the bulldozing of neighborhoods, and mass-incarceration, has come the loss of sustaining stories about the Detroit River–or resident’s stories for framing sustainability for the city’s and region’s future. Learning from local residents who do (or who seek to) engage with its waters, the Story Lab partnership seeks to strengthen the narrative infrastructure of the Detroit River corridor with respect to its indigenous sacred sites, roles in the Underground Railroad, and long histories of water activism, among other themes. We work together through independent media, software platforms, innovative secondary and higher education curricula, and interpretive programing in public spaces. We are also developing youth participatory research trainings in river heritage, ecosystem regeneration, carbon accounting and equitable landscape design, to encourage direct personal ties with the river as well as community identification and advocacy along the corridor. Drawing from pathbreaking recent scholarship on Detroit’s history and collaborative sustainability science, we work toward possible narrative transformation from the one and only “Motor City” to a preeminent “River City” worthy of emulation as an international and intercultural confluence of innovations in climate change adaptation, active learning and environmental and social justice.


March 28
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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Institute for Social Research
(734) 764-8354


6050 ISR-Thompson
426 Thompson St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104 United States
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