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Book Launch

Book Launch | Camilo Jose Vergara’s Detroit is No Dry Bones

12/05 Monday | 1pm

The Institute for Public Knowledge and the Collaborative on Global Urbanism at NYU invite you to join us for a discussion and reception to celebrate the release of Detroit is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City in the Industrial Age, from photographer and ethnographer Camilo Jose Vergara. The author will be in discussion with historian and urbanist Tom Sugrue. 

Over the past 25 years, award-winning ethnographer and photographer Camilo José Vergara has traveled annually to Detroit to document not only the city’s precipitous decline but also how its residents have survived. From the 1970s through the 1990s, changes in Detroit were almost all for the worse, as the built fabric of the city was erased through neglect and abandonment. But over the last decade Detroit has seen the beginnings of a positive transformation, and the photography in Detroit Is No Dry Bones provides unique documentation of the revival and its urbanistic possibilities. Beyond the fate of the city’s buildings themselves, Vergara’s camera has consistently sought to capture the lives of Detroit’s people. Not only has he shown the impact of depopulation, disinvestment, and abandonment during the worst years of the urban crisis, but he has also shown Detroiters’ resilience. The photographs in this book are organized in part around the way people have re-used and re-purposed structures from the past. Vergara is unique in his documentation of local churches that have re-occupied old bank buildings and other impressive structures from the past and turned them into something unexpectedly powerful architecturally as well as spiritually.


Camilo Jose Vergara was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2002 and received a Berlin Prize Fellowship in 2010. In 2013, he became the first photographer to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He is author of numerous books, including Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery; The New American Ghetto; and Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto.

Tom Sugrue is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University. A specialist in 20th century American politics, urban history, civil rights, and race, he is the author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of RaceSweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North, and the multiple-award-winning Origins of the Urban Crisis, among others. He recently founded the Collaborative on Global Urbanism at NYU.

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