In this essay, I theorize an emergent urban power dynamic of infrastructural resource grabs or the use of state power to transfer infrastructural resources away from marginalized, racialized, and/or precariously documented populations. As a transfer, rather than a set of cuts or privatizations, I argue this dynamic is distinct from those of neoliberal or “shrinking” states and is a direct attack on the social reproduction capacity of communities and individuals. Focusing on the case of Detroit, where predominantly white suburban elites succeeded under the cover of Detroit’s 2013-14 bankruptcy proceedings to pry the possession of the water and sewage infrastructure away from the city proper, I demonstrate how primarily African-American residents of the city now subsidize the social reproduction of the predominantly white, wealthier Detroit suburbs and are subject to new conditions of failing or abrogated reproduction. In the second half of the essay, I position contemporary raced and classed infrastructural transfers in longer histories of elite control of the means of social reproduction. In the conclusion, I call for an anti-state, anti-capitalist social reproduction politics that could navigate this terrain defined less by biopolitical forms of welfare state discipline and more by warfare, designed failure, and the cruel denial of self-determination.
"Detroit’s Water Wars: Race, Failing Social Reproduction, and Infrastructure."
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