Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage


Deindustrial heritage

The term “deindustrialization” refers to the process of economic, social and cultural change in many regions of the global north derived by the successive removal or reduction of industrial capacity or activity.

Derived by the development of higher productivity in manufacturing plants and their decentralization to the so-called “developing countries” to reduce labour cost.

Deindustrialization in cultural studies had brought increasing attention from its multiple social consequences of the disappearance of industrial traces in urban space, but also for the silencing of the narratives of the a working class  with no interpretive authority.

In para-enactment research, the parallel growth of deindustrial process and the popularization of historical reenactments derives from the necessity of post-industrial societies to produce new symbols that could connect with their pre- or anti-industrial backgrounds, dealing from nostalgic pasts to utopical alternative presents. Medieval markets or napoleonic battles operate as radical negations as they relate with pre-industrial collective formations, craftsmanship. Locally rooted and negatedly global, reenactments rarely represent migration or working class narratives, having as prominent exception the reenactment of the Battle of Orgreave coordinated by Jeremy Deller in 2001. Deller´s reenactment is in fact a prominent couterexample that, even if mediating a conflict directly related with an industrial environment (a miners strike),  it does positions itself already on a post-industrial setting (1984, after Margaret Tacher´s decision to close collieries and leave over 20.000 mine workers unemployed). On Deller´s reenactment, Representing post-industrial heritage is by no coincidence conducted through a format normally reserved to  the staging of a pre-industrial past

The following excerpts bring some concepts about deindustrial heritage and were written by Stefan Berger as guest editor of the Journal “Labor, Studies in working class history”.

“With the cultural turn in the human sciences and the rise of memory stud-ies from the 198os onward, scholars from different disciplines sought to de-essen-tialize the category of experience by turning their attention to narratology.'' They were interested in recovering lived experiences but understood that remembering is a social and political process and that forced forgetting is an integral part of the deindustrialization process. Narratives of deindustrialization are also present in a whole variety of industrial heritage initiatives. These include industrial museums and other heritage tourism sites that present their own narratives of industrialization and deindustrialization—processes that, as Tim Strangleman has pointed out, are tightly connected."

Next to the prominence of class narratives, there are also narratives of ethnic-ity that underpin nonspatial construction of identity in industrial and postindustrial spaces. In most industrial regions of the world, industrialization was accompanied by migration, and migrant labor played a prominent part in the construction of industrial spaces." In many places, this migrant labor came first from within the nation-state and, later, from outside. In the latter case, we encounter construction of  "indigenous), and "foreign" ethnicities in industrial spaces.”

Berger, Stefan, and Steven High. “(De-)Industrial Heritage.” Labor 16, no. 1 (2019): 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7269281.

︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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