The Dawn of Detroit


READ: ‘The Dawn of Detroit’: An Interview with Historian Tiya Miles – AAIHS

Miles: I realized several years ago that although my histories of Cherokee slavery unfolded on farms and plantations, I was missing the opportunity to think more seriously about land and other features of the material (or natural) world in a way that might enrich my attempt at understanding. The Detroit study seemed to demand a greater awareness of environmental history for reasons that your question highlights, so I applied for a Mellon New Directions Fellowship to seek an orientation to the field of environmental history. I spent a year talking and studying with colleagues at Montana State University where there is a strong faculty cluster in this field, and I learned to ask new questions. My study of Detroit is not an environmental history per se, but it does bring in a consciousness not only of the critical import of the material environment to histories of race and power, but also of the notion that non-humans, such as rivers and beaver, have and deserve their own histories.

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