First Advisor

Gerry Sussman

Date of Publication

Spring 6-3-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning


Maker movement -- Oregon -- Portland, Maker movement -- Michigan -- Detroit, Branding (Marketing), Identity (Philosophical concept)



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 288 pages)


This dissertation explores the maker economy and culture in Detroit, MI and Portland, OR and queries the "Made in Place" branding strategy that relies so heavily on a shared imagination of cities, identities, and values. Bridging the gap between urban economic development, political economy, and affect theory, this dissertation is centrally concerned with how imagination works as a commons and how such "imaginaries" shape each city's milieu of small, entrepreneurial, artisanal producers ("makers"). The constituent elements of "Made in" branding "made" and "place" suggest common understandings of each; this sense of coherence is critical for how value is added to a maker's product. Rather than coherence, however, my data revealed a great deal of tension and ambiguity: how can something be coherent, ambiguous, and mobilized as economic value all at the same time? I answer this question by analyzing data from over 70 interviews with makers in Detroit and Portland, two cities experiencing rapid development and perceptive shifts from "old" to "new." I conclude that the various imaginaries so critical to "Made in Place" branding suggest not just economic rationality, but also a desire for stability in a turbulent world. Theoretically informed by Lauren Berlant, Gilles Deleuze, and Walter Benjamin, I argue that makers' imaginaries of identity, value, and place provide a collective sense of grounding amidst the flux of transition and uncertainty.

Persistent Identifier