Accepted paper:

Marxism and the anthropological investigation of working class memory: rethinking workers' militance in the Spanish railway sector

Author:

Natalia Buier (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper outlines the specific contribution marxist traditions can have to understanding the relationship between workers' militance and the contexts of transmission of historical memory. This theoretical puzzle is adressed through the case of the history of workers' militance in the Spanish railway sector from the last years of the Franco regime onwards.

Paper long abstract:

Using the case of workers' militance in the Spanish railway sector, from the last years of the Franco regime onwards, this paper seeks to formulate the specific contribution marxist traditions can make to the anthropology of memory and labour. Following especially its dialogue with oral history in the 1980s, the anthropology of labour has acknowledged the role of memory in structuring working class militance. However, contemporary understandings of the role of historical memory in working class militance still lack a comprehensive formulation of the relationship between working-class experience, transmission of memory and workers' radicalism. This, I argue, is partly due to the insistence on seeing social memory processes as internal to predefined groups. As I will try to show through the case of Spanish railway workers, one of the specific contributions marxism can make to the anthropology of memory and labour is a better understanding of the way in which the social contexts of speaking about memory are historically structured. This leads, in turns, to a specific task of the anthropologist when dealing with histories of militance: the task of treating any analysis of working class identity in the present as a social history of working class possibilities of speaking the past.

panel PE39
Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent