The dynamism of nineteenth-century Europe elevated technological progress to the status of virtue itself. The expansive mining zones, heralded as catalysts of the Industrial Revolution, became this new, vibrant reality, shaped by imperialism and a confluence of demographic, technical, and economic powers. Over the following two centuries, industrial regions emerged as embodiments of social forces, driven by class loyalties and labour migrations. In border-straddling industrial areas (such as the Donbas or Upper Silesia), the interplay of competing nationalisms and particular forms of national indifference collided with class dynamics and migration patterns. However, structural transformations have since turned industrial regions into murky landscapes full of ruins. Despite occasional revitalized symbolic remnants of the glorious industrial past, these regions now grapple with identity crises stemming from the decline of heavy industry and a transition from once-thriving hubs to realms of uncertainty, where the proximity of the state border remains a potential trigger for armed conflict.
The aim of our conference is to conceptualize the fluid and overlapping identities within Europe’s industrial spaces as well as their shifting loyalties to central governments or nation-states. Additionally, we aim to explore their impact on cognitive, economic, and political shifts and transitions, which have significantly shaped collective paradigms in these regions. Focusing specifically on Cultural and Literary Studies, we seek to capture the vibrancy of industrial borderlands as portrayed in literature, cinema, and the fine arts. However, we explicitly welcome applications from researchers specializing in Anthropology, History, Political Studies, Sociology, Economy, and other related disciplines. Although our attention centres on the Eastern and Central European old industrial borderlands of the Donbas and Upper Silesia, situated along the (cultural) frontiers of Russia-Ukraine and Germany-Poland respectively, we extend an open invitation to all scholars studying European industrial areas and borderlands to partake in a broader comparative dialogue.
Our research inquiries are twofold. On the one hand, we approach industrial regions as spaces particularly influenced by the juxtaposition of modernization and globalization. This kind of exploration transcends the traditional focus on the dominance of extractivism and includes the examination of the region’s evolution towards other forms of economic activity or a lack thereof. Our goal is to adopt an ecocritical lens within the context of the Anthropocene, evaluating the environmental dimensions of this transformation. On the other hand, we investigate the emergence of trans-border, pragmatic, nationally indifferent (non-national) collective identities, as well as tendencies toward irredentism, separatism, and, ultimately, violence and wars. These focal points promise to shed light on the social and historical complexities inherent to these regions.
Thus, the list of research questions includes – but is not limited to – the following:
-Poetics and cultural representations of industrial landscapes
-Space and landscape conceptualizations in literature, cinema, and fine arts
-Structural shifts and transitions in industrial areas
-(Old) industrial borderlands as a framework for ecocritical thinking and manifestations of the Anthropocene
-(Old) industrial borderlands between the industrial and information societies
-Borderland identities against the backdrop of heavy industry
-Separatism and irredentism in industrial borderlands in diachronic and synchronic perspectives
-Working man’s ethos and its aesthetic shifts
-Gender aspects of (de-)industrialization
-Social and political violence
-Economic and political path-dependency of the (old) industrial regions
-Critical regionalism in industrial areas
-Memory studies focusing on industrial regions
-Elements of coloniality in industrial areas
-Othering, exclusion, and inclusion of industrial areas in imperial and national contexts
The conference is a part of the collaborative project “UNDIPUS – (Un)disciplined: Pluralizing Ukrainian Studies – Understanding the War in Ukraine” supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (subproject: “Poetics of Industrial Landscape: The Donbas and Upper Silesia in Comparative Perspective”).
Additionally, the organizers plan to publish a post-conference open-access edited volume featuring extended versions of selected papers.
To join the conference, please submit your application by February 29, 2024. The application should include your name, a short biographical note (up to 150 words), and a concise abstract of your presentation (up to 500 words). Send your application to Dr. Alina Strzempa (Alina.Strzempa@ur.de) or Dr. Oleksandr Zabirko (Oleksandr.Zabirko@ur.de). Alternatively, you may submit a panel proposal comprising three paper presentations (in this case, your proposal should include abstracts and short bios for all papers in the panel). Notification of acceptance will be sent to applicants by March 20, 2024. The organizers will be able to cover a certain amount of the travel and accommodation expenses of contributors. Please specify in your application if you require financial support.
The conference language is English.