Double Keynote: Memory Perspectives on Industrial Transformation(s) in Eastern Europe & Rethinking the Periphery: Deindustrialization in the Global North and South

Lecture format: on site + online.
Room: 2R-EG-07 (lecture hall of the Institute for Eastern European History).
Street address: Spitalgasse 2,  Campus of the University of Vienna, Hof 3.

Memory Perspectives on Industrial Transformation(s) in Eastern Europe (Prof. Joanna Wawrzyniak, University of Warasaw)

Post-1989 "transformation" is one of those vague terms within our academic and popular vocabulary that, along with the Russian perestroika or the German die Wende, at the same time denote and hide complex political, economic,  social and cultural changes in Eastern Europe in the late twentieth century. Those processes have been studied  profoundly in several disciplines of social sciences and the results of those studies have now become a subject of historicization, itself not an easy task.  Almost everything about "the transformation" has been debated: its temporality and periodization, its spatial localization, its driving forces, and its outcomes.  In my lecture, I take stock of those debates to reflect on how memory and industrial studies challenge accounts of Eastern European transformation. I map out the  key questions and issues relating to alternative agencies, spaces and temporalities which often escape conventional political narratives. Overall, I argue for a view of multiple overlapping transformations with different temporalities and driving forces rather than for a transformation as a singular breakthrough in Eastern European history.

Rethinking the Periphery: Deindustrialization in the Global North and South (Prof. Lachlan MacKinnon, Cape Breton University)

The North American industrial heartlands experienced a profound industrial crisis during the 1970s and 1980s. These decades were marked by the collapse of employment in basic manufacturing and other blue-collar work. As mines, mills, and factories were shuttered and workers left unemployed, working-class communities and cultures began to crumble. Scholar-activists like Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison played a crucial role in connecting the ongoing crises in the United States to the processes of political economy and capital accumulation. Capturing the moment in their work The Deindustrialization of America, they reflected upon the runaway shop phenomenon – wherein capital fled across borders, seeking areas with lower operating and labour costs.

In Canada, historians of the labour movement often directed their focus towards the analysis of the national economy at a moment of disruption. Drawing upon dependency theory, historiographical interventions argued for a regionalist understanding of Canadian capital accumulation that saw the “centre” provinces of Ontario and Quebec enriched at the expense of underdeveloped “peripheral” regions such as Atlantic Canada and the West. Within this context, deindustrialization was explored as a function of a specific set of national and international trade agreements, legislative frameworks, and industrial relations.

Recently, scholars within the burgeoning field of Deindustrialization Studies have called for the “transnationalization” of these existing frameworks, through further attention to the ways that our studies are limited by the strict adherence to national borders. A new perspective advocates for connecting experiences from the Global North and South, and beginning to re-evaluate how the flow of capital, ideas, and people have all influenced our collective understandings of the deindustrialization process. In this lecture, the focus will be on interrogating the North-South axis of industrial change in the Americas. This will include some focus on the historical factors that have resulted in alternative readings of deindustrialization, including deindustrialization as political violence, as well as the contrasting trajectories of industrial and economic development in North and South America.

Registration is required only from those guests who wish to participate via Zoom.