Conference Report – Working Group 1: “Transformation of Work”

Conference Report – Working Group 1: “Transformation of Work”

Slow Memory General Meeting, June 6-10, 2022
Portland, UK

In Portland, Working Group 1 co-chaired by Stefan Berger and Joanna Wawrzyniak spent three productive meetings discussing how the concept of slow memory is at play in the historical transformation of work under deindustrialization. And more importantly, how can the concept transform our research practices?

Slow memory refers not only to those long-term ‘uneventful’ processes which researchers often overlook but also to the methods we might employ to recuperate these. Many of us are oral historians of the world of work and we often encounter the moment when our interviewees say that they have ‘nothing special’, nothing interesting, nothing memorable to say. In WG1 we would like to get people talk about their daily work which is such an important part of our individual and collective identities, and of how we find a place for ourselves in the world. We have discussed how do we help transform these experiences of the everyday into narratives that are useful to researchers, and perhaps even of interest to participants themselves?

We have decided to kick off a project of interviewing the labor union representatives across the COST Action countries. We discussed the different topics we would like to consider such as labor unionism, social solidarity, de-industrialization, creative culture and the transformation of work. We then talked about the practicalities of starting on our interviews – whom would we interview, how and what would we ask them. We have also brainstormed about what kind of common publication we could deliver as an international group. Should we focus on the memory of deindustrialization among trade union representatives in different countries, which we are planning on capturing through interviews? Could this theme be combined with other popular research topics in our group, such as slow memory in relation to language, agriculture or the cultural memory of work? We realized that many of our interests intersect and that it will be exciting to investigate them through the prism of slow memory. Finally, to step out of our academic boxes, we decided to organize meetings for a broader public, via digital channels, in which we will present and tackle the slow – uneven and uneventful – facets of deindustrialization from different angles.

Natalie Braber, Agnes Malmgrem, Sophie van den Elzen

Image generated with DALL·E 2, with the following prompt: ‘daylightning our postindustrialisation memory’

Latest Updates

On June 6, 2022, about sixty members of the COST Action on Slow Memory, which now has 38 member countries, met for the first time in person to discuss their research interests, to get to know each other as individuals, and to begin to figure out what this concept might mean for memory studies and remembrance practices.

On Nov. 25th, 2022 12-1:30 CET we will discuss the practicalities of organizing interviews with trade union representatives. If you would like to attend and you are not at our mailing list – please contact Joanna Wawrzyniak wawrzyniakj[at]

Eleven members representing eleven countries met in-person in Portland and had three days of lively discussions about the concept of slow memory, the approach to politics, and the nature and direction of transformation we aim to achieve. 

The second conference for the COST Action “Slow Memory – Transformative Practices for Times of Uneven and Accelerated Change” will take place in Aarhus, Denmark from June 12th-16th, 2023.

As an overarching theme, the slow memory concept is the cornerstone of the training and capacity-building working group that inquiries into how global and local societies confront their past.

CA20105 Slow Memory WG 2 Welfare Meeting, June 8 & 10, 2022, Isle of Portland. The WG2 participants identified an overreaching theme of their interest as (de)institutionalization of care(s). Within this theme, the methods and concepts bringing them together are the following:

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