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’

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