About Me

download_20180119_1225132027223361.jpgMy name is Michael Roman-John Koscielniak.

You can call me Roman or RJ.

I am a PhD Candidate in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Michigan.


Current Research

I study decline as a form of racial capitalist urbanization. Decline is an objective and feature of this system. This research takes me to the cities of the American industrial Midwest. I am completing my dissertation on the geography, politics, and economics of contemporary demolition efforts in Detroit, MI. Part of this work includes understanding how “blightocracy” structures public problems and narrows the range of possible interventions (down to demolition, system-maintenance, race-blind policies, depoliticized expertise, and profit-maximization). I also involve dirt and backfill. I argue for a politicized view of decline and a refreshed take on the politics of blight and demolition.

Broadly speaking, I engage with the themes of power, plunder, austerity, and property. I am interested in how late-capitalist public policy flanks the FIRE economy (and fringe economy) to wreck cities for profit – in ways that are not reducible to a gentrification cycle. How can we rethink capitalist urbanization by approaching decline as accumulation-by-destruction. I conduct this research in a variety of ways (maps, numbers, interviews, archives), some more fun than others (hanging out in a gravel pit). I am not a “Detroit scholar” and I find concentration on Detroit simplifies decline as a sui generis trait of the Motor City. I am motivated by broader questions about scales, structures, and political-economies producing decline in both growing and struggling places.


I completed my undergrad studies in 2008 at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I authored a thesis on 1960s radical political movements against austerity and decline. I completed my masters degree at Washington University in St Louis in 2011 where I placed myself at the intersection of urban policy and urban design, specifically making sense of demolition processes in St. Louis, MO and East St. Louis, IL. I have worked professionally on a variety of demolition, housing, and planning projects across the United States.

I enrolled at the University of Michigan since 2013. I anticipate finishing my dissertation in January 2019. My dissertation is Ground Forces: Demolition, Dirt, and the Geography of Decline-as-Urbanization in Detroit, MI. I will be seeking a tenure-track or postdoctoral research position in the United States within geography, urban studies, or planning. I am available for guest lectures on decline, austerity, demolition, Rust Belt political-economy, and urbanization. I have identified a tentative post-graduation research agenda interrogating the relationship between the urban “fringe economy” (Alternative Financial Services) and decline-as-urbanization. I will investigate how these ubiquitous predatory services establish the conditions and constitute the foundation for decline through continuous plunder of inhabitant resources. I am interested in the ways critical attention to “plunder industries” can challenge the wisdom associating the creative or artisan economy with urban change.

I have a CV available upon request. Ask me for it if you’re interested in what I’m working on these days (maybe you can help me through it).

Odds & Ends

I have a cat. She lives in Rhode Island.

I am a strong supporter of labor and my graduate student union: GEO

I have an unreasonable obsession with hats and sunglasses.

Email me: mkosciel(at)umich.edu

Political Agenda

Far left but you should just email me.


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