This essay unpacks the narrative of Detroit as "America's great comeback story" by suggesting that the narration of the city as an authentically American frontier of opportunity is rooted in what Aileen Moreton-Robinson calls "the white possessive." In so doing, the essay emerges from and extends work that poses whiteness and property as co-constructions within the settler colonial state. I argue that tourism narratives of exploration and discovery, in which a majority black city is imagined as open, empty, and ready for exploration and settlement by adventurous explorers and urban pioneers, represent the possessive logics of whiteness. By analyzing the ways in which Detroit has been chronicled in travel narratives of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries such as the chronicles of urban explorers and the state-funded "Pure Michigan" tourism campaign, I show how the mythology of the frontier and its reliance on white possession as the defining narrative of place is redeployed in the attempt to (re)claim Detroit by the State of Michigan, corporate elites, and creative class workers.


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pp. 777-806
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