Skip to main content

Colloquium Talk

Geography Colloquium Series

The City after Property: Abandonment and Repair in Postindustrial Detroit

In the early 2010s, the Motor City became a laboratory for reimagining postindustrial futures. A skeleton of its former self, city officials classified a staggering 150,000 lots—more than a third of Detroit’s land—as “vacant” or “abandoned,” designations that elided as much as they revealed. The notion of a city with too much land grabbed media headlines. As plans unfolded to shrink and green Detroit, a paradox emerged. Even as the city’s land problem was widely characterized as one of abundance (too much land and too little demand), it became more difficult for many residents to acquire land and stay in their homes. In this talk, Sara Safransky draws from A People’s Atlas of Detroit (2020) and her new book The City After Property to explore the complex questions of justice at the heart of this paradox. To understand how a city could have too much land but not enough to go around, Safransky rereads narratives of postindustrial decline. She argues that to more adequately confront the politics of abandonment that shape struggles over urban futures, we must go beyond seeing property as simply a thing that one owns (i.e., the land itself) and interrogate it as a historical and racialized construct, an ideology, and a moral force that shapes selves and worlds. In other words, we must ask what comes after property?  


Dr. SafranskySara Safransky is a human geographer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of The City after Property, co-editor of A People’s Atlas of Detroit, and co-producer of its sister documentary, A People’s Story of Detroit. Her writing can be found in Antipode, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Environment & Planning D, Urban Geography, and elsewhere.

UK Athletics Association Auditorium, William T. Library
Type of Event (for grouping events):


Tea in POT 745 at 3:14 pm = π time

Speaker:  Mihai Ciucu, Indiana University

Title:  Cruciform regions and a conjecture of Di Francesco


The problem of finding formulas for the number of tilings of lattice regions goes back to the early 1900's, when MacMahon proved (in an equivalent form) that the number of lozenge tilings of a hexagon is given by an elegant product formula. In 1992, Elkies, Kuperberg, Larsen and Propp proved that the Aztec diamond (a certain natural region on the square lattice) of order n has 2n(n+1)/2 domino tilings. A large related body of work developed motivated by a multitude of factors, including symmetries, refinements and connections with other combinatorial objects and statistical physics. It was a model from statistical physics that motivated the conjecture which inspired the regions we will discuss in this talk.

In recent work on the twenty vertex model, Di Francesco was led to a conjecture which states that the number of domino tilings of a certain family of regions on the square lattice is given by a product formula reminiscent of the one giving the number of alternating sign matrices. These regions, denoted Tn, are obtained by starting with a square of side-length 2n, cutting it in two along a diagonal by a zigzag path with step length two, and gluing to one of the resulting regions half of an Aztec diamond of order n-1. Inspired by the regions Tn, we construct a family of cruciform regions Cm,na,b,c,d generalizing the Aztec diamonds and we prove that their number of domino tilings is given by a simple product formula. Since (as it follows from our results) the number of domino tilings of the region Tn is a divisor of the number of tilings of the cruciform region C2n-1,2n-1n-1,n,n,n-2, the special case of our formula corresponding to the latter can be viewed as partial progress towards proving Di Francesco's conjecture.



214 White Hall Classroom Bldg
Type of Event (for grouping events):
Subscribe to Colloquium Talk