PoSoCoMeS WG | Deindustrialisation and Reinventions NUBS 2.04
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.10. Remembering Postsocialist Transitions and Deindustrialization: Forms of Visual Culture and Literary Writing

In societies that underwent political 'transitions' in the late 20th century, away from various types of state socialism or socialist-inspired anti-colonial movements, deindustrialization has been a pressing matter of concern. Though acutely experienced by large population groups, especially members of the working class, that lost their jobs, social status, and became dislocated, the radical de-scaling of industrial production as part of neoliberal economic 'reconstruction' has most often been rendered invisible within discourses about political transitions that typically focus on processes of post-conflict reconciliation, postcolonial emancipation, and post-authoritarian democratization. At the same time, the deindustrializing land- and cityscapes have enjoyed much visibility as emblems of 'failed' socialist economies, imaginaries, and regional or global infrastructures, and as places of nostalgia or fetishized evidence of utopian (turned dystopian) 'past futures'. Whether foregrounding post-industrial ruination or heritagization, these representational practices blur the political conditions that have shaped global postsocialist peripheries, and generally separate 'politics' from 'economy.'This panel addresses the question of how contemporary visual and literary practices create forms for remembering the entanglements of transitions and deindustrialization, reflecting on the dialectics of politics and economy, the ideological and the material, personal and collective. By intersecting inquiries into aesthetic forms and practices of memory we aim to analyze the interventions that art, film, literature, and curatorial practices make within the evolving national and transnational memory cultures. Which genres, artistic strategies, and visual/textual languages do they e ...

NUBS 2.04 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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In societies that underwent political 'transitions' in the late 20th century, away from various types of state socialism or socialist-inspired anti-colonial movements, deindustrialization has been a pressing matter of concern. Though acutely experienced by large population groups, especially members of the working class, that lost their jobs, social status, and became dislocated, the radical de-scaling of industrial production as part of neoliberal economic 'reconstruction' has most often been rendered invisible within discourses about political transitions that typically focus on processes of post-conflict reconciliation, postcolonial emancipation, and post-authoritarian democratization. At the same time, the deindustrializing land- and cityscapes have enjoyed much visibility as emblems of 'failed' socialist economies, imaginaries, and regional or global infrastructures, and as places of nostalgia or fetishized evidence of utopian (turned dystopian) 'past futures'. Whether foregrounding post-industrial ruination or heritagization, these representational practices blur the political conditions that have shaped global postsocialist peripheries, and generally separate 'politics' from 'economy.'
This panel addresses the question of how contemporary visual and literary practices create forms for remembering the entanglements of transitions and deindustrialization, reflecting on the dialectics of politics and economy, the ideological and the material, personal and collective. By intersecting inquiries into aesthetic forms and practices of memory we aim to analyze the interventions that art, film, literature, and curatorial practices make within the evolving national and transnational memory cultures. Which genres, artistic strategies, and visual/textual languages do they employ? Which temporalities and time-space configurations do they produce? Whose voices and subjectivities do they foreground? How do these memories account for the 'fast' or 'slow' violence of deindustrialization, and what light do they cast on political discourses of transitions? The panel combines papers on different contexts in Eastern Europe and the Global South within the framework of global postsocialisms.



Judith Naeff, Leiden University

Socialist elegies in neoliberal Lebanon: The poetics of interruption in two videos by Mary Jirmanus Saba and Mohamed Soueid

This paper analyzes strategies of interruption and aesthetics of juxtaposition in two videos dealing with socialist futures past in Lebanon. Mary Jirmanus Saba's A feeling greater than love recovers the forgotten history of the big industrial strikes at the Lebanese tobacco and chocolate factories. The paper discusses how the respondents not only interrupt each other, but the filmmaker also interjects her post-socialist and deindustrialized present into the narrated past and vice versa.
Mohamed Soueid's semi-fictional My Heart Beats Only For Her juxtaposes past communist imaginaries of "Arab Hanoi" with the neoliberal present of contemporary Beirut, Dubai and Hanoi.
Strikingly both videos are titled as love songs. They are elegies, lamenting the lost dream of liberation in a neoliberal world order. The paper follows Bonnie Honig's (2013) call to not only pay attention to the politics of public speech, but also to the politics of interruptions and asides, and argues that these elegies move beyond sentimentalism, or even mortalistic humanism, in search of a critical assessment of the present.


Dimitra Gkitsa, University College London (UCL)

The ruins that "we" common: Post-industrial decay as liminal time/space for contemporary art production

Closures and privatisations of factories after the collapse of socialist regimes, resulted in the destruction of local communities and the appearance of a new set of precarity, unemployment and social inequalities. De-industrialisation left small post-socialist rural towns and villages which relied on the operations of a factory, empty and decayed. Former industrial plants have now turned into vast spaces of modern ruination. Decay and ruination become active witnesses of the complex transformations that have taken place in the post-socialist reality. What type of affective knowledge is inscribed in the material and visual remnants of industrial decay? In what ways can this knowledge in-form and trans-form the present reality? More crucially, how can we common and reclaim anew spaces that bring both with their materiality, and with their discourse, connotations of a contested, and in some cases, unwanted heritage?

Acknowledging that post-industrial sites are an important heritage of the post-socialist culture, this paper approaches abandoned and decayed factories as liminal sites for practising the commons in the contemporary condition. In so doing, the paper draws on the concept of the commons and affect theory to analyse self-organised art initiatives, such as Termokiss (Pristina, Kosovo), Uzina (Tirana, Albania) and The Fridge (Sofia, Bulgaria), which re-inhabit abandoned factories in an attempt to create alternative spaces for sociability beyond the impossibilities of the post-socialist neoliberal reality. To this end, the paper proposes the term "affective commoning" as a concept-tool to describe an emerging body of practices that reclaim abandoned and decayed industrial spaces, offering it back to its community under different connotations.


Ksenia Robbe, University of Groningen

Deindustrialized childhood as deterritorializing refrain: Intersectional class politics and cross-generational repair in Russian feminist writing

Deindustrialized Russian 'provinces' during post-Soviet 'transition,' in the poetry and autofiction by a younger generation of women authors (Galina Rymbu, Oksana Vasiakina, Ekaterina Simonova, Oxana Timofeeva). My reading will analyze this recurring chronotope as a characteristic of a poetics that conveys the violence of transformation and the class differences that emerged as part of these processes and intensified since the 1990s. Speaking to the high-brow ideas of literature and the cultural practices of intellectual milieus of the capitals, these texts articulate class as a boundary while interlinking the protagonists' political subjectivity with re-collected/imagined subjectivity of their parents. In addition, the feminist optics of these texts intersects class with reflections on the dramatic changes of femininity and masculinity, including gendered violence, in the context of socio-economic transformation; at the same time, feminist and childhood-focused perspectives refract this violence through a reparative poetics of memory.

Ultimately, the paper will show how memories of life in a deindustrializing small town create potential new subjectivities by articulating the violence of transition as continuing into the present while enacting the ways in which recognition and repair could take place. Drawing on Oxana Timofeeva's use of the Deleuzian 'deterritorializing refrain' as a figure of belonging beyond aggressive nationalism, I reflect on how this poetics that entwines circularity and futurity represents an alternative to the competing memories of the postsocialist transition in Russia.


Magda Szcześniak, University of Warsaw 

Erasing Labor. The Politcs of Memory in the De industrializing Gdańsk Shipyard

In the summer of 1980, a two week strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard, one of the most important industrial facilities in the socialist bloc, led to the establishment of the Independent Self Governing Trade Union "Solidarity", which within a couple of months boasted a membership of 10 million workers. Although the demands of the 1980 strike focused primarily on economic rights, the Solidarity movement is often seen as proof of the strikers' will to dismantle the socialist state and facilitate a transition into capitalism. Even though this interpretation has been challenged by many historians, the "anti communist Solidarity" became the foundational myth of the post socialist new state after 1989. Ironically, this narrative must grapple with the paradoxical consequences of the transition, that is the privatization of major industrial facilities – including the Gdańsk Shipyard – and their subsequent collapse. To avoid concentrating on the tragic fate of the facility, the telling of its past is limited to the "glorious past" of the 1980 strikes, interpreted as the first step on the "road to freedom." On the other hand, the future of the already de industrialized spaces is framed as full of opportunities. The presentation outlines a double erasure of working class lives and spaces of labor from both past and future – the first carried out by public institutions, the second by commercial property developers, both operating on the former premises of the Shipyard. As I will show, through a number of revitalization and commemorative efforts, the dismantlement of the facility, the rapid deterioration of working class lives and the disintegration of a space once treasured as unique is erased from public view. I will also examine art projects, created in the 2000s /2010s, which worked against the obliteration of working class lives and labor. Often ephemeral and created in diverse media, the artworks sought to make the effects of deindustrialization visible, calling into question both the optimism of actors involved in gentrification processes and the victorious narratives promoted by cultural institutions. 

Assistant Professor Cultures of the Middle East
,
Leiden University
Alexander Nash Research Fellow
,
University College London
Senior lecturer
,
University of Groningen
Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies
,
University of Warsaw
 Joanna Wawrzyniak
Associate Profesor
,
University of Warsaw
 Katarzyna Anzorge
Phd Candidate
,
University of Lodz
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