Maris Gillette, Professor, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Conceptualizing Industrial Heritage: The View from China

When China's former state and collective enterprises failed to privatize successfully in the early 2000s, millions of former workers lost their jobs, industrial sites and machinery turned into obsolescent eyesores, and a state-driven, centralized modernization project became unwanted history. After artists and designers in Shanghai and Beijing took over a few former factories for creative purposes, government officials in some cities realized that deindustrialized sites could be a resource for redevelopment, and the central government began creating policies to promote industrial heritage. Previous ethnographers of industrial heritage have used concepts such as performance, scar, and ruination to theorize heritage-making in deindustrialized places. Here I draw on examples from China, particularly Jingdezhen, to suggest that industrial heritage processes be understood as metaphoric and metonymic processes of gentrification.

Maris Boyd Gillette is a social anthropologist and filmmaker whose research explores how capitalist processes affect group identities, material culture, and economic practices. She has studied porcelain workers and entrepreneurs in Jingdezhen, southeast China (China’s Porcelain Capital: The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of Ceramics in Jingdezhen, Bloomsbury 2016), Chinese Muslims in Xi’an, northwest China (Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption Among Urban Chinese Muslims, Stanford 2000), and urban neighborhoods in the midwestern and eastern United States. Gillette works regularly with museums on exhibitions, public history, and educational initiatives, including the Campbell House Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the St Louis Art Museum, and the Missouri History Museum. She has participated in several community engagement initiatives, including the community history and digital media project Muslim Voices of Philadelphia, for which she received a Courage in Media Award from the Council on American Islamic Relations in 2012.  She is Professor of Social Anthropology, School of Global Studies, the University of Gothenburg.

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