Conference: The Memory of Labour

The Memory of Labour
9-12 September 2010
Bildungshaus Jägermayrhof, Römerstraße 98, 4020 Linz
Simultaneous Translation: English – German

46th Linz Conference, organized by the International Conference of Labour and Social History and the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria, kindly supported by the Federal Ministry of Research, the Provincial Government of Upper Austria, the City of Linz and the Friedrich Ebert-Foundation Bonn.

Preparatory Committee

Jürgen Mittag (Co-ordinator, Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr University of Bochum), Bruno Groppo (Centre d’Histoire Sociale, Université de Paris I), Eva Himmelstoss (ITH), Jürgen Hofmann (Berlin), Silke Neunsinger (Labour Movement Archives and Library, Stockholm), Berthold Unfried (ITH & Institute for Social and Economic History, Vienna University), Marcel van der Linden (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam).

Background and Approaches

Starting point of the conference cycle is the question about the presence of labour movements in public representations of the past (“collective memory”). This approach is relevant, because the field of politics of history, historiography, communicative and cultural memory has been readjusted during the last decades. The changes in global politics and global memory politics after the end of the bipolar world system have led to very controversial debates: from questions about the exploitation of the past for political objectives and as a means of identity politics, along the debate about the prerogative of interpretation of national memory in media and memorial sites up to the debate on the transnationalisation of certain forms of “collective memory”.

Yet, in this context, the role of labour movements has remained vague and scarcely discussed. Against this backdrop, the 2010 conference is meant to analyse which modes of remembrance and repression have influenced collective memory about labour movements, which events have been fed into the memory canon and what were the changes these processes of memory have been subject to in the last few years: Are the social emancipation efforts and the call for humanisation of living and working conditions in the centre of memorization? Is it the contribution of labour movements to the formation of (European) welfare states and the creation of relatively homogenous societies in Europe – or do very different cognitive or affective traditions of thought play a role?

The conference will pursue two major targets: On the one hand, the place of labour movements and social movements in European and global commemorative politics will be analysed in view of different nation states and regions. On the other hand, commemorative politics and strategies of labour movements themselves will be analysed.

In this regard, it has to be scrutinized if, and in how far, labour movements – as actors within broader historical developments – were formative for commemorative strategies of political movements in general. Has this concept of memory lost its foundation in the era of a new “commemorative-regime” in which future disappears in the past? And how do labour and social movements position themselves towards the global attempt to provide an outlook for future through the examination of the past?

More information available on the conference web site.

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