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High: Working-Class Public History in North America

Steven High (kanadischer Gastprofessor)


HS 32442 (Magister):

Working-Class Public History in North America


(Mi 16-18) JFKI, Raum 203


“Working Class Public History”, in this instance, refers to both a subject of study – working people – and to a potential method of doing public history from the bottom-up. Students enrolled in this seminar will explore how working people and work have been remembered and represented in Canada and around the world in museums, on-line exhibitions, monuments, statuary, public murals, historic sites, oral history projects, the built environment and so on. Particular attention will be paid to changes in the built environment in the context of deindustrialization such as urban gentrification, preservation, abandonment and demolition.  Key concepts such as “place”, “community,” “landscape”, and “memory” will be explored.



Students will read articles compiled in a course pack. The readings will be drawn from the following list:

What is Working Class Public History?

Green, James. Taking History to Heart: The Power of the Past in Building Social Movements. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2000), introduction and chapter 2 “Bringing the Boundaries of History Closer to People’s Lives: the Massachusetts History Workshop,” 51-72.

Heron, Craig. “The Labour Historian and Public History,” Labour/le Travail 45 (Spring 2000).

Norkunas, Martha. Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Washington: Smithsonian, 2002), Introduction, chapter 1.

Riordon, Michael. An Unauthorized Biography of the World: Oral History on the Front Lines (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2004), introduction.

Oral History

Portelli, Alessandro. The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), Chapter 1 and chapter 3.

James, Daniel. “Listening in the Cold: The Practice of Oral History in an Argentine Meatpacking Community,” in The Oral History Reader (Second Edition) (London: Routledge, 2006), 83-101.

Riordon, Michael. The Unauthorized Biography of the World (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2004), excerpts.

VanSittert, Lance. “‘To Live This Poor Life’: Remembering the Hottentots Huisie Squatter Fishery, Cape Town, 1934-1965,” Social History 26, 1 (2001), 1-21.

The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization

Massey, Doreen. “Places and their Pasts,” History Workshop Journal 39 (1995), 182-192.

Gard’ner, James Maitland. “Heritage Protection and Social Inclusion: A Case Study from the Bangladeshi Community of East London,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 10, 1 (March 2004), 75-92.

Blokland, Talja. “Bricks, Mortar, Memories: Neighbourhood and Networks in Collective Acts of Remembering,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25, 2 (June 2001), 268-283.

High, Steven and David Lewis. Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization (choose from the following), selected parts.

Summerby-Murray, Robert. “Interpreting deindustrialised landscapes of Atlantic Canada: Memory and industrial heritage in Sackville, New Brunswick,” The Canadian Geographer 46, 1 (2002), 48-62.

Taksa, Lucy. “Hauling An Infinite Freight of Mental Imagery: Finding Labour’s Heritage at the Swindon Railway Workshops’ STEAM Museum,” Labour History Review 68, 3 (December 2003), 391-410.

Hospers, Gert-Jan. “Industrial Heritage Tourism and Regional Restructuring in the European Union,” European Planning Studies 10, 3 (2002), 397-404.

Walsh, John and Steven High, “Rethinking the Concept of Community,” Social History/Histoire sociale 17, 64 (1999), 255-274.

Museums, Film and Historical Fiction

Todd, Ellen Wiley. “Visual Design and Exhibition Politics in the Smithsonian’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” Radical History Review 88 (2004), 139-162.

Frank, David. “Short Takes: The Canadian Worker On Film,” Labour/le Travail 46 (2000), 417-37.

Atwood, Margaret. “In Search of Alias Grace: On Writing Canadian Historical Fiction,” American Historical Review 103, 5 (1998), 1503-1516.