EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes

Location T-307
Date and Start Time 02 August, 2014 at 09:00


Grazyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University) email
Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Vienna) email
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Short Abstract

The panel aims at discussing experiences and practices characterizing the post-industrial spaces and reflecting on the relevance of the study of such developments for anthropology. It welcomes addressing the issue of inequalities, distinctions, community practices, cultural activities, use of space.

Long Abstract

The raise of post-industrial society has been commonly described in terms of growing importance of service sector, knowledge economy, rapid and wide-scale technological advances. It has also been associated with changing patterns of social relations, new understandings of "community", and the shifting nature of social bonds. While some scholars recognize "post-industrialism"'s social and cultural potential, describing it as an age of convivial, (more) equal and creative societies, others indicate persisting inequalities, increasing consumerism and detrimental technocracy. The aim of our panel is to look at all these phenomena - and the debates which tackle them - through the lenses of anthropological knowledge and methodology. In proposing the panel, we aim to create a platform in which to discuss a variety of experiences, practices and discourses characterizing the post-industrial spaces and, at the same time, reflect on the relevance of the study of such developments for the discipline of anthropology. In the reference to the latter, we aim to address the question of new trends, methodologies, and reflections as well as to highlight the problem of the usage and "adaptability" of the concept in different contexts (e.g. Western/Eastern Europe, and other sites).

We invite contributions addressing the following issues:

- use, adaptation, and reconfiguration of post-industrial spaces

- disappearing/new lifestyles, community and neighborly practices, forms of cultural activities

- old/new inequalities within post-industrial landscapes

- old/new distinctions (ethnic, class, educational, etc.)

- changing/persisting aspirations, desires, ways of self-realization

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Labour, housing and migration in a former Soviet steel town

Author: Tommaso Trevisani (Università degli studi di Napoli “L'Orientale”)  email

Short Abstract

In Temirtau, Kazakhstan’s (former Soviet) steel town, industrial and post-industrial urban spaces and lifestyles coexist in a context of protracted labour restructuring. Housing, labour and migration shape the way in which social inequalities are created and redefined.

Long Abstract

Since the arrival of Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal in 1995, Temirtau, a city in central Kazakhstan whose origins and development over the last seventy years have been symbiotic with its steel production, has been witnessing a progressive erosion of industrial jobs and a substantial reshaping of its urban landscape. Protracted, large scale out-migration of Germans and other Russian speaking peoples since the early 1990s, and the more recent arrival of Kazakhs from the south and from abroad, have significantly altered the composition of the city's population. Capitalist restructuring, migratory movements and the government's new nation building policies have triggered new social divides and inequalities, but also conducted to the emerging of new lifestyles, aspirations and anxieties, and to shifts in consolidated community practices. In this context, my paper devotes specific attention to the interdependencies subsisting between migratory movements, the 'flexibilization' of labour and industrial employment, and the bust and boom of real estate and housing. By looking at their materiality and sociality, the paper will discuss in how far these urban 'fields' are dealt with constructively or are contested, and address continuity and change in the local forms of social inequality. The paper will show how industrial and post-industrial spaces and orientations mingle in distinctive ways in Temirtau, and, more at large, how this recent development can contribute to the anthropology of (post-) industrial work and space.

Manufacturing nostalgia: the case study of an industrial museum in New England

Author: Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the functioning of an industrial museum, located in New Britain, Connecticut. It inquires to what extent the museum facilitates the accommodation of post-industrial changes and to what extent it reinforces nostalgia for old times.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses the functioning of an industrial museum, located in New Britain, Connecticut. In the early 20th century, New Britain was known as the "Hardware Capital of the World". The city's factories exported their goods and influenced hardware manufacturers worldwide. Thriving industries attracted immigrants from Europe; Irish, Italians as well as Eastern Europeans who eventually became the majority in the city. The factories brought their owners great fortunes, while their employees - stability, descent income and a variety of community-building and social practices. The curtailing and shutting down of factories affected workers' professional trajectories and social ties, and it also led to an ethnic reconfiguration of the urban realm: "white" middle class migration to the suburbs and "black" working class move downtown.

Conceived in the early 1990s, the New Britain Industrial Museum collects and exhibits photos, maps, and items which used or continue to be produced in the city. Documenting the changing landscape of the industry and, through that, of the city itself, it emphasizes the city's and its inhabitants potential. In so doing, it strives to serve as a bridge between the city's past, present and future. Attending to the employees' and volunteers' (ex-factory workers') narratives, museum exhibits and special events, this paper asks to what extent the museum facilitates the accommodation of post-industrial changes and to what extent it reinforces nostalgia for old times? How does it respond to the new challenges faced by the city? And how does it address new ethnic and class distinctions?

Old industrial space, new suburban uses: the Ahmadiyya mosque

Author: Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)  email

Short Abstract

The conversion of a suburban dairy into a mosque described as the largest in western Europe in 2003 provides the setting for an ethnographic exploration of the discourses, and practices, of urban regeneration, sectarian conflicts, Islamophobia and the challenges of community building in London.

Long Abstract

Built on the site of a disused former dairy, the Baitul Futuh mosque in south west London is simultaneously a testament to how post-industrial sites may be transformed for uses unimagined at the time of the original development; a signal achievement for the Muslim community which raised the funds to build it while denied the right to call its places of worship 'mosques' in its homeland, Pakistan; an affront to local orthodox Sunni Muslims; a focus for Islamophobic protest, and a much needed boost to local council plans to regenerate the area and even contribute to local tourism. Using town planning documents, media articles and more traditional forms of anthropological research, this paper considers the conflicting discourses available to locals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which centre on the mosque. These are located in the broader historical and contemporary transnational contexts of sectarian violence and the creation of community where ethnicity, faith and immigration status marks those who attend the mosque as recent arrivals in Europe, even when this is patently not the case. The strategies diverse local groups use to the define the space in their own different and conflicting terms and their multiple and cross-cutting claims and goals, now rooted in one small corner of London which has become the worldwide centre of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, are discussed to present a range of religious, political and ethnic positions shaping ideals of self-realisation and aspirations for the future at both individual and community levels.

Persuasive vistas, political visions: public art and design in the re-making of Germany's Ruhr

Author: Cynthia Browne (Harvard University)  email

Short Abstract

My paper addresses ethnographic research undertaken on the role of public art and urban design as cultural catalysts of change for the post-industrial transformation of the Ruhr region of Germany.

Long Abstract

In my paper, I present findings from 10 months of field research undertaken in the Ruhr region of Germany regarding the role of public art and landscape design as catalysts for its urban transformation into a post-industrial society. In my paper I examine the contradictory nature of various artistic interventions into the urban fabric. Such interventions, I argue, paradoxically entail both a critique and embodiment of the neoliberal ideologies embedded in the regional authority's embrace of "creative industries" as a panacea for the levels of high unemployment and socio-spatial segregation in this shrinking region. On the one hand, for instance, conversation with protagonists and observations at their events make clear that these artists position themselves against the commercialization and privatization of urban public space. On the other hand, however, the kind of social relations and performative roles that characterize their collaborative artistic projects require an indi

vidualized and entrepreneurial subjectivity at odds from the kind of participatory culture of solidarity that marked social relations and selfhood in the Ruhr's industrial workplaces. Thus, this ethnographic account of the shifting nature of artistic practice in Germany's former industrial heartland shows how such practices both cultivate the kinds of social relations characteristic of neoliberalism (as distinct from the welfare state), yet at the same time attempt to cultivate a critical understanding and new forms of democratic participation within post-industrial urban space.

Rethinking the 'worthless dowry' of Soviet industrial modernity

Author: Jeremy Morris (University of Birmingham)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses lived experience of blue-collar workers in a so-called ‘monotown’ in Russia since 1991, drawing on extensive fieldwork since 2009. The ‘worthless dowry’ of Soviet modernity is re-evaluated through the lives of people who make this industrial space 'habitable' for themselves.

Long Abstract

This paper will discuss the lived experience of blue-collar workers in a so-called 'monotown' in industry-intensive regional Russia since 1991, drawing on extensive fieldwork since 2009.

In social science and especially political-economy, the narrative of the post-socialist legacy of Soviet urban planning - settlements built quickly around industrial enterprises and dependent upon them for social services and infrastructure - has been one of non-viability and decay. As if tens of millions of people can be written off as a bad experiment in urban modernity.

In this paper I propose to start a rethinking of the 'useless dowry' of Soviet modernity (Trubina 2013) through the ethnographic lens of the everyday experience of people who make this industrial space 'habitable' for themselves, in work, leisure and sociality. This belies widespread belief in the meaning of deindustrialisation of such spaces. Not only does manual work emerge (or rather, endure) as an important category for identity and moral economy, social capital accounts of the failure of post-socialist urban life fail to examine the distinctive nature of class-based relationships that involve 'deep commitments, intense emotions, and everyday acts of relatedness' (Balihar 2011).

The politicization of post-industrial spaces in contemporary Poland

Author: Jaro Stacul (Memorial University of Newfoundland)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the current reconfigurations of the post-industrial landscape of the Gdańsk shipyard in northern Poland. It seeks to pursue the argument that turning a post-industrial space into a space of consumption is functional to the legitimation of the power of the post-Socialist state.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the current uses and reconfigurations of post-industrial spaces in contemporary Poland. The post-industrial city is becoming a unit for the efficient maximization of consumption, yet the issue of how far the production of spaces of consumption entails their depoliticization needs to be properly investigated. Drawing upon ethnographic information collected in the city of Gdańsk, on the Baltic Sea, the paper discusses the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard that was the cradle of Solidarity (Solidarność), the mass social movement that questioned the legitimacy of the Socialist state in the 1980s. It illustrates the ways in which the location where Socialist ideology was contested is turned into an area for living, leisure and business through the construction of luxury apartments, office space, and a shopping mall. However, the paper also shows that the transformation of a site of resistance to the Socialist state into a space for consumption also involves rewriting the history of the events that had led to the downfall of state Socialism. Rewriting this history, in turn, also means casting the shipyard as the location where the new, capitalist Poland was born, and entails removing both the material traces of Socialism and the working-class history that certain buildings embody. The paper sets out to pursue the argument that producing spaces of consumption does not necessarily result in their depoliticization. If anything, this may be an integral part of the process whereby the post-Socialist state attempts to assert and legitimate itself.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.