Accepted Paper:

Learning to belong again: from industrial utopia to heritage utopia  


Marie-Blanche Fourcade (Montreal Holocaust Museum)
Lucie K. Morisset (UQAM)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the re-creation of a sense of place in an industrial community and questions how ethnography, through the sharing and self-interpretation of living and everyday practices, can operate a “switch of utopias” from an “imagined community” to a heritage community.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the re-creation of a sense of place in an industrial community, seen as a form of 21st-century utopia. Through the example of an aluminum model city built in Canada from 1925 to the 1960s and the "Memories of Arvida" project, it will present and analyse how the ethnographic study of the everyday living in a company town can support the construction of a narrative of transmission in times of profound urban and social changes.

Arvida can in fact be seen, historically, as one of the last great industrial utopias, and the Arvidians, whether still inhabitants or expatriated, do preserve a sense of historical distinctiveness. The question remains of how the community can sustain the sense of belonging it needs to build in order to achieve its preservation and transmission goal.

It is in this context that the "Memories of Arvida" project was designed as part of a knowledge mobilization initiative. Through the collection of personal stories, it seeks to motivate Arvidians into the sharing and self-interpretation of their existence towards what could then be called a "switch of utopias" from an "imagined community", to paraphrase Anderson, to a heritage community. This paper will question how ethnography can then help reach beyond the institution-driven heritage-making process, in this case by intertwining the individual narratives of Arvida's utopian past and the present practices and imaginaries of the urban landscape as a heritage, e.g. as a collective making of a "better society" through the reinvention of belonging.

Panel Heri006
Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource