Displaced industrial workers frequently reflect upon the landscape of their former workplaces with unease. These sites, whether left in ruin or put to “creative re-use,” come to represent the symbolic displacement of working-class cultures and concerns. When working-class men and women try to influence the development of such sites through public history interventions, they frequently come into conflict with the desires of community developers, local boosters, or pro-business organizations. This article traces the barriers faced by former steelworkers in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in their attempt to establish a museum dedicated to the history of their steel mill. Although their efforts ultimately failed, this article reflects upon the contestations that are at the heart of commemorating the industrial past, the role of class in mediating public history, and the role of the state in rectifying the many inequities wrought by deindustrialization.
Coal and Steel, Goodbye to All That: Symbolic Violence and Working-Class Erasure in Postindustrial Landscapes
LACHLAN MACKINNON is an Assistant Professor of History at Cape Breton University. He is a coeditor of The Deindustrialized World: Confronting Ruination in Postindustrial Places, and his research focuses primarily on the experience of Canadian workers in deindustrializing cities and towns. He is also working on the history of regional industrial development in Atlantic Canada and the Scottish Highlands.
Lachlan MacKinnon; Coal and Steel, Goodbye to All That: Symbolic Violence and Working-Class Erasure in Postindustrial Landscapes. Labor 1 March 2019; 16 (1): 107–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7269350
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