CFP « Deindustrial Landscapes: the (more-than) representations of industrial decline »

Working group« Historical Cultures of Labour under Conditions of Deindustrialisation », Workshop proposal, « Deindustrial Landscapes: the (more-than) representations of industrial decline », coordinators : Roberta Garruccio (University of Milan), George Jaramillo (The Glasgow School of Art).

Paris, 2-4 November 2017.

The workshop will take place at the conference of the European Labour History Network (ELHN). For further enquiries please contact the workshop coordinators

In the current political atmosphere of Western society there has been a desire to return industrial and manufacturing entities back to their countries (The Economist 2013). In the U.S., the 2016 Republican presidential campaign frequently appealed to the need for a return to an all-American, insular past as a way out of economic instability. Similarly, in the UK, the outcome of the Brexit referendum showed how successful had been the appeal to“take back control” as way to shelter against global change. Representations of deindustrialization in different media and contents have contributed to constructing and reproducing a discourse whose ideological undertones, far from confining it to the realm of symbolic nostalgia, are having profound and differentiated effects. With this, comes a renewed interest in the way that these (de) industrial landscapes have been shaped and are to be shaped. Thus we propose a workshop that focuses on the representations and the more-than representations of deindustrializing and deindustrialized landscapes. The production of postindustrial spaces often involves a transformation in historical culture (Rüsen 1994) where postindustrial landscapes, both rural and urban, can be viewed as ‘containers’ of memories and imaginations of the industrial era.

This workshop examines the long-term social and cultural legacy of deindustrialization, focusing in particular on the concept of landscape (Wylie 2007) disseminated through various narrative forms and media. The ideas of landscape studies shows this development in the way that memory identity and particularly industrial cultures are perceived (DeSilvey 2010, Edensor 2005, Petursdottir 2012, Stewart 1996). Similarly, reflecting and influencing public memory at the same time, the study of postindustrial landscapes also offer insights into the continuing struggle over the meaning of industrial work and its loss, revealing unresolved social, cultural and political tensions, yet existing representations of deindustrialization, for example, have been criticized as ‘smokestack nostalgia’ (Mah 2012; High 2013). In order to chart how we understand domestic industrial decay in our political, cultural and economic climate, the organizers, more specifically, call for studies of the rhetorical exploitation and discursive representations and more-than representations (Thrift 2008) of loss and regeneration in post-industrial landscapes.


It is now widely acknowledged that some of the dimensions of deindustrialization only become apparent through the passage of time (Goch 2002). Current research has argued that the symbolic force of postindustrial landscapes has been expressed through patterns of rhetorical invention, or “ruination rhetorics” (Irving 2015). De-industrial studies are no longer a prerogative of economists and labour studies scholars, but include contributions from the social sciences and humanities. Starting from the 1990s, scholars began to investigate the social memory of deindustrialization, bringing to the light the faultlines, the distortions, the repressions and the struggles, which constellate its construction. (Gordillo 2014, DeSilvey, 2010). A wide body of texts exists which spans from fiction to cinema, to poetry, graphic novels, corporate narratives, oral testimonies and memoirs, documentaries, home movies, photography and street art (Edensor 2005, DeSilvey 2007, Appel 2015). They all share a common focus: what it means – and how it is experienced – to live in a society which has ceased to manufacture things, or which produces less, and with fewer workers.  We explore four key themes within the post and de-industrial narrative:

Representations that reflect the memories through its physical remains, in ruins, etc., but at the same time legitimize and authenticate those memories, cutting across their ambiguities. Furthermore, it means considering the direct memories of the protagonists, but also the second-hand memories or the memories that remain inscribed in the landscape (Strangleman, Rhodes & Linkon 2013).

Ecological systems, be they through re-wilding, green sites, as well as, new hybrid industrial ecologies that are created through the environmental conditions present in industrial landscapes (Falck 2010).

Re-imagining the future and picturing regeneration (Hölscher 1999, Orange 2015) that allows this area of study influence not only in planning and design, but also in public policy and development.

Emergent politics from competition among the different meanings attributed to the industrial past, thereby fostering new discourses around them, including discourses around racial or ethnic issues (Wacquant 2009).

Studying (more-than) representations involves focusing not so much on what people remember, but on how they are remembered, through what artifacts, and on what strategies and media are deployed to interpret and comment on the past in order to understand the present and imagine the future. Indeed, research on representations and the more-than representations of deindustrialization has shown that the media have been powerful generators of representations in all their forms and shapes. In conclusion, this workshop takes into account how deindustrialized landscapes not only reflect the past but are planned and considered for the future giving the ELHN conference a forum for broad discussions in labor history.



The Economist, 2013, Coming home: Reshoring manufacturing, Published Jan 19th 2013. Accessed online :

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Gordillo, G.R., 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Duke University Press.

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Strangleman, T., Rhodes, J. and Linkon, S., 2013. Introduction to crumbling cultures: Deindustrialization, class, and memory. International Labor and Working-Class History, 84, pp.7-22.

Thrift, N., 2008. Non-representational theory: Space, politics, affect. Routledge.

Wacquant, L., 2009. Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Duke university Press

Wylie, J., 2007. Landscape (Key ideas in Geography). Abingdon: Routledge.