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Keynote: Dr Dietrich Soyez


Until his retirement in early 2007, Dr Dietrich Soyez served in the Faculty of Science at the University of Cologne for 15 years, including several terms as Departmental Chair. He has acted as President of the Association of Canadian Studies in German-Speaking Countries (1995-1997) and Chair of Germany’s IGU National Committee (2000-2004).

Soyez completed his studies in Germany (Universities of Bonn and Saarbruecken) with a Staatsexamen/State Examination in Geography and Romance Languages in Saarbruecken in 1969. Furthermore, he was awarded a B.A. (Honours) in Geography, French and Ethnography (1966) as well as a Fil.lic. in Physical Geography (1971), followed by a doctorate in Geography (1974) at the University of Stockholm/Sweden.

His second German academic thesis (Habilitation, 1981) was concerned with Environmental Economic Geography. Other current fields of interest are Political Geography and Industrial (Heritage) Tourism.

Dr Soyez has been a visiting professor at Université Laval/Canada (1990), Université de Paris X/France (2003) and Sun Yat-sen University/P.R. of China (2003, 2007 to present), and has been or continues to be a member of the Editorial Boards/Foreign Correspondents’ Committees of several international geographical journals. He has also served in a variety of other international contexts, for instance as a member of the International Evaluation Commission of Human Geography Undergraduate and Graduate Programmes at Swedish universities, an activity formally completed by the Commission’s final report published in 2006.

Professor Soyez’s talk is entitled ‘Uncomfortable Landscapes of our Industrial Pasts: Transnationality and Trauma’:

Uncomfortable Landscapes of our Industrial Pasts:
Transnationality and Trauma

The majority of industrial heritage sites worldwide, and former iron and steel production/processing heritage in particular, can regarded as ‘sanitised’ for two main reasons. First, they are markedly ‘national’ in terms of the politics of their designation, their social legitimacy and normal practices of their interpretation. In this sense, ‘national’ claims are privileged over the actual ’messiness’ of the industrial process which cuts across tidy boundaries and is decidedly transnational in character marked by migrations and movements of people (including invading armies), ideas,  inventions and pollution. Second, industrial heritage sites almost exclusively celebrate the brighter aspects of industrialisation by, for instance focusing on inventive engineers, far-sighted entrepreneurs and creative architects, assumed, for the most part, to working in times of peace, prosperity and progress. Industrial sites and landscapes marked by technological failure, active in times of war or annexation, and overseen by greedy industrialists, power-hungry politicians or fame-thirsty generals, are less common to our narratives of industrial heritage.
In this paper I address transnationality and trauma as being constitutive – and often linked – facets of our industrial heritage. I seek to complement current narratives and the dominant tropes of our industrial past by making visible the concealed and troubled realities of industrial heritage. Drawing upon examples from the industrial landscapes and major steel centres of the Rhine-Ruhr area, as well as case studies from other parts of the world, I offer reflections on the contemporary politics of industrial heritage within the conceptual frameworks of contested heritage and heritage dissonance, as well as offering possible ways of dealing with the realities of transnationality and the truths of trauma.



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