Class, place, heritage and critical urban futures

The histories, ‘ruinations’ (Mah, 2012) and infrastructures of ex-industrial and Rust Belt cities across the Global North offer an awkward, contested and ambiguous context for post-industrial urban development. Physical and cultural heritage is mobilised to authenticate boosterist regeneration projects, radical histories are selectively heralded, whilst new formulations of ‘craft’ / creative economies are framed as a lineages of urban industrial innovation. This occurs alongside continued economic dislocations, class-based defamations and latterly, discourses of political dysfunction. In the UK, we see the cities of the English north drawn into a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ policy framing with industrial infrastructures and working class histories often viewed as key strategic resources to forge new place-identities and economic imaginaries (such as Sheffield’s ‘Year of Making’). However, we do not fully understand how and to what end this heritage is mobilised or what kind of development agendas and urban experiences it produces. With the political resurgence of conservative populism and its connection in media discourses with disgruntled ‘left behind’ spaces, how working class / industrial histories, materialities and experiences are located within and exploited by contemporary urban policy is crucial to understand. In the session, we envisage papers examining themes such as:

  • Heritage regeneration
  • The politics of deindustrialisation
  • The materialities of deindustrialisation
  • Industrial infrastructures and the post-industrial city
  • ‘Craft’, ‘making’ and ‘new’ artisanship
  • The exploitation of radical urban movements / histories
  • Heritage and contested urban memory
  • Urban nostalgias
  • Urban tourism and the industrial landscape
  • The gentrification of heritage
  • Aesthetics of industrial ‘ruination’


Dr Andrew Wallace, University of Leeds

Dr Gareth Millington, University of York