ELHN Conference 2017 – CFP “Factory History : An Integrated Approach”

The factory once loomed large in national historiographies. As the emblematic locus of  industrialization, the industrial plant nurtured the core soul of capitalism: the relations of production on the shop floor. Labour historians once revelled in the history of the factory, focusing sharply on its workers and their organizations. Conversely, since the 1980s, after the wave of deindustrialization and factory relocation that has characterized western economies, the factory, along with the industrial worker, seems to have disappeared from historians’ agenda. Deindustrialization has inspired a questionable historical narrative predicated on the shift from an ‘industrial economy’ to a ‘knowledge economy’. Factories are allegedly no longer at the centre of policy-making decisions, electoral programmes or social protest. Industrial trade unions are ghosts of their former selves, while organised labour has become a largely public sector phenomenon. The factory interests few.
But, in a world awash with manufactured goods, where have the factories, and their workers, gone? Monographs on the factory were once frequent, and some were models of their genre, but they sometimes adopted an overly narrow industrial relations lens (or, worse, the hagiographic tone of a company history) that obfuscated what could be gained from an integrated, interdisciplinary and multi-focal gaze. For this reason, this issue will encourage contributions that study the factory through multiple lenses. For instance, as part of the urban space, the ways its architecture, planning and organization affected workers’ patterns of protest and consent, influenced practices of management or transformed the urban environment. A novel research agenda on the factory would be located at the intersection of different disciplines and sub-disciplines, looking at a variety of agents, and cross the boundaries of national historiographies of industrialization and deindustrialization.
We are calling for papers from social, economic and cultural historians who focus on the historical study of a factory in all its aspects, but in particular from an integrated, interdisciplinary and multifocal gaze. Contribution to this panel will hopefully inspire a novel research agenda on the factory that would be located at the intersection of different disciplines and sub-disciplines, looking at a variety of agents, and crossing the boundaries of national historiographies of industrialization and de-industrialization.
While this perspective argues for a history of the factory that is interdisciplinary, labour historians have much to gain from it. As a field labour history has widened in scope in the past thirty years: the history of everyday life, of communities, of urban space, of gender and the reproductive sphere are now part and parcel of labour histories. These methodological and theoretical developments have had a tremendous influence on labour history. We look for contributions that build upon these developments and further encourage a dialogue between labour history and other fields. As a complex organization employing large number of workers the factory is a point of convergence of different social phenomena, some transnational in scope such as resources, employees and circulation of commodities. Studying a factory in all its aspects encompassing the transnational flows of capital and trade, internationally shaped investment decisions, the interactions between
international and national regulation, national and international labour migration could move our research questions from the fallacies of a narrowly national focus.
We invite proposals for papers and roundtables addressing one or more of the following themes:

– Social Relations of Production and the Workplace (Technology, Work groups, Economic
cycles and factory, Working class formation, Managerial models)
– Industrial Relations And The Workplace (Industrial Conflict, Working-class Resistance, Wages)
– Factory Cultures (Competing cultures within factory, Cultures of work, Factory and memory)
– State, Factory And Labour (Intervention of political regime, Legislation, Policing and surveillance, Institutions, Citizenship and integration, State crisis and regime change)
– Factory And The Production Of Difference (Ethnicity and Race, Religion, Gender, Migration, Generations, Tasks and Skills)
– The Factory And The City (Neighbourhood, Community, De/industrial landscapes, Social reproduction and factory labour)
– Capital, Management And Factory (Financing, Factory ownership patterns)
Please send your proposal (300 words max.) to both coordinators until 1st April 2017.
Görkem Akgöz, Hacettepe University, Ankara akgozgorkem@yahoo.com
Nicola Pizzolato, Middlesex University, London N.Pizzolato@mdx.ac.uk
(Please let the co-ordinators know if you want to join the ELHN Factory History Working Group email
list)


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