Deindustrialisation: Memories, Ecologies, Futures

Monday 13 May,
3.00pm - 5.00pm

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R.D. Watt Seminar Room, R.D. Watt Building, Science Road, University of Sydney




Join visiting scholar, historian Professor Stefan Berger (Ruhr University), economic geographer and feminist scholar, Professor Katherine Gibson (Western Sydney University), and social and political change expert, Dr Jonathan Paul Marshall (UTS) for an interdisciplinary public roundtable discussion.

Nature restoration and heritagization of industrial remains have become major tropes of future-making in deindustrializing regions of the Western world. From Manchester to Detroit, industrial land- and waterscapes are being repaired, exhibited and re-appropriated for new purposes, often in the service of the leisure, tourist and culture industries.

The evident ecological and economic benefits that the transformation of declining regions into culture and nature hubs brings have lent legitimacy to stories of wholesale success. However, increasingly, questions are being asked about who really identifies with and benefits from an encompassing gentrification of landscapes and communities alike, and about who might be excluded.

Discussing such transformations at two sites, in Germany’s Ruhr District and Australia’s La Trobe Valley, this interdisciplinary public roundtable examines the cultural conditions for postindustrial landscapes that are socially inclusive. It invites debate about dominant discourses and practices, and brings into view alternative environmental histories.


Professor Stefan Berger, Ruhr University
Professor Katherine Gibson, Western Sydney University
Dr Jonathan Paul Marshall, University of Technology Sydney

Dr Ute Eickelkamp (Chair), Department of Anthropology
Professor Linda Connor (Q&A Moderator), Department of Anthropology


Stefan Berger is a comparative historian working on labour movements and social movements, the history of regions of heavy industry (in particular deindustrialisation processes and industrial heritage), national identity and nationalism, and the history of British-German relations. He was Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Glamorgen, Wales, where he co-founded the Centre for Border Studies, and Chair of the European Science Foundation (ESF) program, ‘Representations of the Past: National Histories in Europe’ (2003 – 2008).

Katherine Gibson is internationally known for her research on rethinking economies as sites of ethical action. In the late 1990s the collective authorial voice of J.K. Gibson-Graham led the critique of capitalocentric thinking that was blocking the emergence of economic possibility. She has directed action research projects with communities interested in alternative economic development pathways in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. These experiences have contributed to elaboration of a distinctive ‘Community Partnering Approach to Local Development‘. Her most recent book, co-edited with Gerda Roelvink and Kevin St. Martin, is entitled Making other worlds possible: performing diverse economies (University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

Johnathan Paul Marshall is a research fellow at UTS investigating the unintended consequences of climate technologies and the social disruption of those technologies. He has previously worked on the politics of coal, the disorder of software and daily life, and written ethnographic studies of life online. His main interests lie in the anthropology of technology and change, focusing on the importance of disorder, complexity and failure for understanding social action. He has authored Living on Cybermind: Categories communication and control (Peter Lang 2007), Jung, Alchemy and History: A Critical Exposition of Jung’s Theory of Alchemy, (Hermetic Research 2002) and co-authored Disorder and the Disinformation Society: The social dynamics of information, networks and software. (Routledge 2015).

Ute Eickelkamp is an anthropologist whose research and teaching is in the fields of cultural and social theory, philosophical anthropology, environmental humanities, psychoanalysis, childhood, art, Aboriginal Australian cultures and thought, and spatial imagination and practices. With a comparative eye to developments in the greater Sydney region, Ute is currently developing a collaborative study of postindustrial selves and ecological transformation in Germany’s former coal mining hub, the Ruhr Metropolis, where industrial cultural heritage and wilderness co-exist. Here efforts are underway to restore land and society alike, by hosting the 2027 International Garden Expo across the entire polycentric region, and by re-making Europe’s largest open sewer into the clean river it once was.

Linda H. Connor is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. She has worked in several countries and continents as researcher and academic. Her current research focuses on comparative ethnographic studies of global warming and environmental change in Australia, India and Germany. She is part of a group undertaking an Australian Research Council funded project, The Coal Rush and Beyond: A Comparative Study of Coal Reliance and Climate Change.