Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 4.23
Jul 06, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230706T1330 20230706T1500 Europe/London 7.14. Urban memory and social justice activism NUBS 4.23 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023
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Remembering "folket": Popular culture, political memories, and the legacy of People's Parks
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
 The notion of the people, folket, has throughout the last two centuries remained seemingly omnipresent in Swedish political discourse. The word is associated, inter alia, with 1840s school reforms (Folkskolan) and 1890s attempts to hold elections among those otherwise without voting rights to form a People's Parliament (Folkriksdagen). It figures in several Monarchs' royal mottos. Meanwhile, the People's Home (Folkhemmet), is frequently used by both supporters and critics to denote what the Social Democrats built during their forty years in unbroken government, 1936-1976. Like other political keywords the meaning of the notion 'the people' is both historically varied continuously contested.
In this presentation I explore these varied and sometimes clashing meanings by scrutinising three park projects in which 'the people' as well as parks' political and popular-cultural legacies are remembered in rather different ways. First, I centre on the 1796 Krokbornsparken, a rural leisure park known as Sweden's first Volkspark, to trace how people, rural nature, and culture were articulated in the late 18th century and how particular park memories are curated today. Thereafter I focus on the labour movement-initiated 1930 Kolbäck's People's Park, ravaged by fire in November 2020, to shed light on the way that former organisers and park-visitors make sense of what they had and have now lost, and what 'the people' meant during an era when labour-controlled People's Parks were among the country's most important popular-cultural venues. Finally, I shift to Djurönäset in the Stockholm archipelago to trace the way that 'the people' and the history of People's Parks is understood as a conference and events facility has established what they refer to as Sweden's newest Volkspark. What past is recreated as entrepreneurs build a kind of park often otherwise nostalgically presented as part of Sweden's 20th century past, and what work is the notion of 'the people' to do here? Reading these cases alongside each other should illuminate the way that 'the people', past and present, is understood and actively marshalled, and thus shed light on the ongoing political purchase of the notion of 'the people', particularly at a time when the way both reformist Social Democrats and right-wing populists struggle over who is understood as today carrying 'the people'.
Erik Jönsson
Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor, Uppsala University
HMP Divis? Memories of everyday life in the Divis Flats
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
The Divis Flats, high-rise housing projects built as part of prime minister's Terence O'Neill's modernizing 1960s vision for Northern Ireland, were a striking intervention into the landscape of west Belfast. Initially concieved of as an improvement on the 'slum' housing of the Pound Loney, with running water, indoor toilets and other modern conveniences, they quickly became associated both with endemic disrepair and with the increasingly violent context of the Troubles. Nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, the first child killed in the Troubles, was killed in the Divis tower during the Northern Ireland riots of August 1969, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) fired a machine gun into the flats; according to the Divis Residents' Association (DRA), by 1986, 19 people had been shot dead in the flats. Divis was central to the exercise of state and non-state violence in this period. In the 1970s, the British Army constructed an observation post on the roof of the highest flat and occupied the top two floors, which they generally accessed by helicopter.
Balconies, Brits and Bin Lids: Residents Remember Life in Divis Flats is an oral history collection published in 1998 by the Divis Study Group. Drawing mainly on this source, this paper will consider how residents narrate their memories of life in the flats. Balconies is an ambivalent intervention in the memory culture around the area; former residents critique hegemonic media narratives of the flats as synonymous with crime, poverty and violence, while also describing the appalling conditions that made demolition the only acceptable solution, as they and the activists who campaigned for the closure of the flats argued.
Gerry Downes, the editor of the book, says in his introduction to the collection that: 'Depending on the writer's point of view, Divis has been portrayed as; a fortress, a prison, a republican stronghold, a concrete jungle, a glue sniffers' den, a joyriders' paradise.' In this context, residents' memories are engagements in a discursive web that renders them abject and blames them for their poor housing conditions. 
Reading Balconies for these kinds of engagements, the paper will also lay out my plans for a larger project on housing infrastucture, memory and activism in Northern Ireland.
Fearghus Roulston
Chancellor's Fellow In The History Of Activism, Strathclyde
Grenfell Tower and Commemoration: How online spaces create a platform for social justice.
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
This paper explores how forms of commemoration and campaigning for human rights are weaved together in coming to terms with a traumatic past. This paper specifically explores how, discursively, this process occurs in the community surrounding Grenfell Tower. Grenfell Tower was a multi-story housing complex located in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, West London. On 14th June 2017, a fire engulfed the whole building into flames, and sadly claimed the lives of 72 people. Campaigning for social justice has been a significant element of remembering Grenfell Tower, even before the fire occurred, so the very act of coming together is an important part of coming to terms with their reality and their past. What makes Grenfell Tower unique from other disaster communities is that this community continues to provide social support and a platform for campaigning for social justice 5 years later. Community activities around Grenfell Tower, and also online spaces, connect practices of commemoration, activism and justice.  
This paper draws upon data from an ongoing PhD project, and will focus on how online spaces do social justice. This paper explores how different online media -from blogposts to popular music to YouTube videos to podcasts- are used to disseminate important messages about the impact of unsafe housing, corporate greed and institutional discrimination. Critical Discursive Psychology (Tileaga, 2019) has been used to understand the discursive and semiotic practices that underpin both commemoration and campaigning for justice. The paper argues that different online commemorative spaces do different things. For instance, some online spaces are oriented to personal reflection, whilst others are used to display and appeal to national feelings towards justice. The discursive analysis reveals that, in these spaces, often the boundaries between the personal and the collective are blurred, often advantageously. This paper concludes with a discussion of some key advantages and drawbacks of justice-oriented spaces that successfully challenge hegemonic narratives and connect the voices of those with shared experiences of the disaster.
Presenters Penny Litchfield
PhD Researcher, Loughborough University
Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor
Uppsala University
Chancellor's Fellow in the History of Activism
PhD Researcher
Loughborough University
Assistant Professor of Global English
New College of Florida
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