Scott Kurashige: The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit


On July 23, 1967, the eyes of the world fixed on Detroit, as thousands took to the streets to vent their frustrations with white racism, police brutality, and vanishing job prospects in the place that gave rise to the American Dream. Mainstream observers contended that the “riot” brought about the ruin of a once-great city; for them, the municipal bankruptcy of 2013 served as a bailout paving the way for the rebuilding of Detroit. Challenging this prevailing view, IAS faculty member Scott Kurashige portrays the past half century as a long rebellion whose underlying tensions continue to haunt the city and the U.S. nation-state. He sees Michigan’s scandal-ridden "emergency management" regime, set up to handle the bankruptcy, as the most concerted effort to put it down by disenfranchising the majority black citizenry and neutralizing the power of unions.

Kurashige's new monograph, The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in Detroit, asks: Are we succumbing to authoritarian plutocracy or can we create a new society rooted in social justice and participatory democracy? The corporate architects of Detroit’s restructuring have championed the creation of a “business-friendly” city, where billionaire developers are subsidized to privatize and gentrify Downtown, while working-class residents are being squeezed out by rampant housing evictions, school closures, water shutoffs, toxic pollution, and militarized policing. Grassroots organizers, however, have transformed Detroit into an international model for survival, resistance, and solidarity through the creation of urban farms, freedom schools, and self-governing communities. This epochal struggle illuminates the possible futures for our increasingly unstable and polarized nation.

The Fifty Year Rebellion is receiving media attention from a number of sources. The Detroit News included it in "Rebellion or riot: three books examine Detroit 1967." Inside Higher Ed discusses the book in "Books, Exposed." And Thom Hartman interviewed Kurishige live on The Big Picture, in a feature entitled "How our current political crisis began in Detroit." Kurashige was also interviewd for a forthcoming blog post on NPR's Code Switch.

The Seattle Public Library will host a book release event for The Fifty Year Rebellion where Kurashige will be joined by Michael Hardt to discuss the lessons that can be drawn from this history, including a look at new social justice challenges emerging in Seattle and imagining possibilities that might confront us beyond 2017.

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