Guest Lecture

Gods and Monsters: A Solastalgic Examination of Detroit's Ruins and Representation

Event Information

  • Friday, November 25, 2022
  • 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
  • Emil-Abderhalden-Str. 26-27, HS III
  • 06108 Halle

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Gods and Monsters: A Solastalgic Examination of Detroit’s Ruins and Representation

Prof. Christopher Gullen (Westfield State University)

This lecture appropriates philosopher Glenn Albrecht’s neologism solastalgia, originally coined to refer to the sensation of existential anguish during environmental crisis, to refer to the city of Detroit, the phenomenon of “ruin porn” and the effect this media has on its residents. The concept of “ruin porn” and the societal need to dub anything sensationalistic or exploitative as “pornography” (e.g. “Torture Porn”) has gained greater popularity in the last thirty years, especially as artists and photographers have flocked to the city of Detroit and other rustbelt locales to eagerly capture their dilapidated edifice. This genre of media has been the subject of much academic criticism with many critics decrying the detached fetishization of such sites as well as the sensation of white privilege and impecunious neglect that is inherent in these photographs. Some photographers like Karen Jerzyk have gone so far as to insert nude models into these spaces in an attempt to contrast “natural beauty with man-made decay.”

Simultaneously, however, Detroit has been experiencing a massive gentrification of the downtown area largely due to private investment resulting in the establishment of four star restaurants and high end fashion boutiques (e.g. Shinola Watch). On the outskirts of the city, where much of this photography takes place, crime and poverty run rampant and the massively neglected Detroit Public School system struggles to pay its employees and educates its children in buildings that are so ramshackle, they could serve as the setting for many of these

This bizarre dichotomy has created a sensation of melancholia and chaos for those who are situated within the city of Detroit. Furthermore, ruin porn creates a cyclical consciousness of trauma for residents as it continually perpetuates an images of Detroit as a ruined wasteland incapable of self-governance or improvement beyond the assistance of the white, elite establishment. This talk will utilize Albrecht’s work in tandem with urban studies to explore how ruin porn affects Detroit residents and the representation of the city at large. 


The talk will take place on Friday, November 25, 2022 from 3:00 pm – 4:15 pm (Emil-Abderhalden-Str. 26–27, HS III)

Everyone is welcome to attend!

Organized by PD Dr. Julia Nitz