Memoryscapes (digital, locational, imagined) TFDC 1.18
Jul 07, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230707T1100 20230707T1230 Europe/London 9.5. Memoryscapes of Future Communities 2: Territories of Waste

This panel together with the panel Memoryscapes of Future Communities 2: Performing Waste are two parts of a joint proposal. Both evolved from a common interest in the figure of waste and wastelands of various kinds as memoryscapes of communities to come in the wake of present day ecological and economic crises. Our general understanding of waste is rooted in similar theoretical contexts that emphasize the relevance of the dissolution of existing social ties which creates potentials for redefining communities as more than human collectives striving to survive on the ruins of capitalist world. Thus, the figures of waste that we approach instantiate various entanglements of existence that emerge out of colonial pasts and persistently impose their agency by pushing extant communities towards change which, however, often evades human attempts at control for the sake of securing the status quo. As sites of germination of new forms of life and being together, emerging from catastrophes of the modern era, these territories commingle and complicate temporalities to evade linear models of progress towards futures purified of undesirable toxic matter. The two panels, concerned respectively with ethnographic case studies and analyses of speculative fictional genres, are tightly intertwined to highlight the complexity of the problem of community and change in times of crises, the leading theme of the MSA Conference 2023. In this panel we approach this set of topics, by taking a closer look at three territories where postindustrial waste encroaches upon communal life in times of political unrest and economic crises. The three case studies, employing transdisciplinary ethnographic frameworks, trace instances of resistance to the politics of rejuvenation which aims at subjecting th ...

TFDC 1.18 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel together with the panel Memoryscapes of Future Communities 2: Performing Waste are two parts of a joint proposal. Both evolved from a common interest in the figure of waste and wastelands of various kinds as memoryscapes of communities to come in the wake of present day ecological and economic crises. Our general understanding of waste is rooted in similar theoretical contexts that emphasize the relevance of the dissolution of existing social ties which creates potentials for redefining communities as more than human collectives striving to survive on the ruins of capitalist world. Thus, the figures of waste that we approach instantiate various entanglements of existence that emerge out of colonial pasts and persistently impose their agency by pushing extant communities towards change which, however, often evades human attempts at control for the sake of securing the status quo. As sites of germination of new forms of life and being together, emerging from catastrophes of the modern era, these territories commingle and complicate temporalities to evade linear models of progress towards futures purified of undesirable toxic matter. The two panels, concerned respectively with ethnographic case studies and analyses of speculative fictional genres, are tightly intertwined to highlight the complexity of the problem of community and change in times of crises, the leading theme of the MSA Conference 2023. In this panel we approach this set of topics, by taking a closer look at three territories where postindustrial waste encroaches upon communal life in times of political unrest and economic crises. The three case studies, employing transdisciplinary ethnographic frameworks, trace instances of resistance to the politics of rejuvenation which aims at subjecting them anew to practices of extraction and exploitation; resistance put up by more than human communities on micro and macro scales, within various temporalities and on different timelines. In this respect the territories chosen for case studies – Upper and Lower Silesia in Poland as well as Lebanese cities – although geographically distant, reveal close affinities in terms of how the unwanted yet persistent material remnants exert their impact on the present communities, ravaged by their troubled political past and striving for a more livable future. As the authors gathered in this panel argue, these livable futures are crucially dependent on working out commemorative practices which could bring out the agency of these more than human entanglements. Biotic beings are only a segment of these entanglements, in which remnants of infrastructure together with chemical matter (rock, gas, pollution) persist on non-human temporal scales. Therefore these collectives require new theoretical and practical approaches, in which commemoration combines close description with speculative fabulation, to yield accounts of the past that point to alternative post extractivist futures. These commemorative practices also call for a renewed understanding of what might be common for inclusive communities on territories of waste. The panel investigates instances of staying with the troubled past and making it visible for the sake of working out possible future forms of communal being-together.



Mateusz Chaberski

What the Slag Heaps Re-Member. Elemental Memories, Industrial Pasts and Post-Extractive Futures

Slag heaps are an integral part of the post-industrial landscape of the Polish mining region of Upper Silesia. In recent years those landfill sites of gangue and surplus rock extracted from mines and industrial waste from ironworks have undergone intensive biological, social and cultural revitalization. However, the revitalization projects fail to account for the region's troubled pasts and their detrimental aftereffects perceptibly felt in the present in which ecological and socio-economic catastrophes intertwine. (Kufa 2021) Moreover, they also disregard human and more-than-human communities that inhabit the slag heaps and already enact more hopeful post-extractivist futures.
This paper aims to bring into relief the entangled temporalities of extractivist practices in Upper Silesia. Drawing on contemporary elemental turn in (post)humanities, it pays close attention to the geochemical make-up of the slag heaps comprising among others iron oxides, zinc sulfides and methane, as a potential access points to the landscapes' troubled pasts and possible futures. Firstly, "elemental memory" (Engelmann 2022) of selected substances will be scrutinized i.e. their capacity to auto-affect over time, in order to trace their past and present ecological and socio-political effects on the local naturalcultural environments. Secondly, the slag heaps will be interpreted with a view to unravel possible "practices of re-membering" (Barad 2018) which afford using the past to produce openings, new possible histories by which different human and more-than-human communities on slag heaps might endure in the future.

Empirically, the paper is based on transdisciplinary ethnographic research conducted on three sites in the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Area: the feral heap 'Ajska' in Świętochłowice, the heap in Katowice-Panewniki, currently in operation, and completely revitalised heap 'Mount Antonia' in Ruda Śląska which foreground different yet interlocking elemental memories and practices of re-membering.


Marta Tomczok & Paweł Tomczok, University of Silesia, Katowice

Commemorative Practices for Post-Carbon Communities (the case of Upper Silesia)

The industrialization of Upper Silesia and Dąbrowa Basin, two industrial regions in the south of Poland, began in the latter part of the 18th century. Extraction of carbon, the smeltering of zinc, lead and iron, coking and other branches of industry defined the character of medium-size towns, usually created by connecting smaller settlements around industrial centres. The experience of these communities was the economic transformation which started in 1989 and caused the closing down of mines, steelworks and factories which provided income for a large share of the local population. The situation on the job market stabilized only in recent years. At the same time a lot of institutions were established which preserve the industrial past in these abandoned places. Old mines and steelworks, for years regarded as ruins, now host museums, cultural centers and commercial recreational spots. In many other spaces, which until recently were treated as degraded, new investments crop up. No longer producing coal, coke, iron or steel, these memoryscapes establish social connections between the old and new inhabitants of these districts and immigrants (for example from Ukraine and Pakistan), animals and plants which create new ecosystems in these abandoned places.

In our paper we address the problem of environmental degradation as recorded in literature, memoirs, photography and painting. A significant element of our analysis of commemorative practices is the presence in cityscape postindustrial objects (carts with coal, winding towers, mine shafts) connected with abiotic and biotic environment. We analyze the functioning of memory in more-than-human communities inhabiting postindustrial districts. The monuments of industry provide grounds for collectives that connect old rituals with new goals and adapt the malleable post-carbon spaces to their current needs.


Filip Ryba

What Remains after a Revolution? Waste, City, and More-than-Human Community

In October 2019 enormous protests break out in Lebanon which turn into a revolution, later called the 17 October Revolution. Thousands of people appear in the streets, paralysing the functioning of the country. Hundreds of photos go around the world: one shows a man in an inflatable pool, the other thousands of tires scattered on the road, there are those with grills, tourist stoves and loudspeakers on the main thoroughfares and junctions of Lebanese cities. It is a revolution not only of people but also of objects and things. The more-than-human community captures the cities for a while. Districts are filled with graffiti, murals, and manifestos written on the walls. Beirut is changing the most - a city hit by two wars is changing under the influence of an almost bloodless revolution. How does what is left of the still smouldering revolution affect the perception of the city? How do remnants of protests - posters, inscriptions, scraps - become or not medias of memory and political agency? Are these remnants still part of a more-than-human community that fights for political justice? Are these remnants and waste still doing or are able to do something in/for Beirut? Analysing my conversations with citizens of the Lebanese capital and pictures of Beirut (these from the present-day as well as those from the very beginning of the revolution) I will try to answer the above questions and reflect upon the pasts and futures of the revolutionary more-than-human community in Lebanon. 

Associate Professor
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Jagiellonian University
Professor
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University of Silesia
Professor
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University of Silesia
Doctoral candidate
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Jagiellonian University
Professor
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Jagiellonian University
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