Toward a Politics of Accountability

Feminist ethics of care and whiteness in Detroit's foreclosure crisis

Rachael Baker

Published in Issue 1.1 // Retrospectives

Keywords: Ethics of care; whiteness; accountability; Detroit; metabolisms of foreclosure


In the decade since the 2008 mortgage crisis, residents of Detroit, Michigan have continued to sustain anemic levels of preventable foreclosures by tax delinquency. The city’s decades-long over assessment of property values and proceeding windfall of tax foreclosures are happening amid a post-bankruptcy governance regime to remarketize housing and land that has been accumulated by the city through forfeitures and seizures. Over 50% of the city’s households, rented or owned, are led by African American women. Growing economic inequality and community efforts to keep Detroit a majority black city have roused organized responses against territorial reconfigurations that could drive further political-economic division and displacement. The Tricycle Collective, a woman-led non-profit that assisted Detroit households in avoiding tax foreclosure, will be examined here for their use of a feminist ethics of care in their approach to foreclosure prevention. This article considers the potential for harm in exercising an ethics of care within a deeply racialized housing market, without the intention of constructing next steps for advocates and activists to direct opposition toward the ongoing crisis of racialized dispossession. Speaking through critical race studies, urban geography and feminist theory, a feminist ethics of care will be deconstructed alongside what I call a “politics of accountability”, as a framework for action and analysis.

Rachael Baker is a Doctoral Candidate and Canada-US Fulbright Student Alumnus at York University / Wayne State University.

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