9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mobility and Diversity of European Identities Building II, C2.02

Exploring transformations of worker identities by analysing biographic narratives from industrial worker in Nuremberg (Germany)

Industrial works seems to be an element of former times in West-Europe as it is mostly represented in decline and loss. Images of closing factories and notions on individualisation are going hand in hand in indicating not only various changes in the socio-economic realm but demonstrating a lost of workers identity. With the upcoming of post-structural identity concepts and the shift in identity research on gender, ethnic and race the identity of class fall into oblivion. This applies especially for research and discussions in Germany.
My contribution will take the transformations of workers identities under scrutiny. It will demonstrate that these changes are accompanied by conversions of urban places which are important for everyday life, for feelings of belonging and for the memories of the industrial workers. How these transformations in the socio-economic and in the spatial realm infected workers identities will be discussed. In contrast to other studies the crossover of different identities like class, gender and ethnicity is considered.
This study is based on data gained by empirical research as part of the EU-project SPHERE. Identity formations are analysed by long narrative interviews with former and with current industrial workers in Nuremberg and by observations at urban places with significance for the workers memories. Thus the argument will be underlined by interview material and photographs.
The research is located in Nuremberg (Germany) what has a long history of industrial work. Here industry has lost thousands of jobs while there was a small job growth in the service sector. Today besides of industrial plants and well renovated structures some run-down buildings are present. The area is characterised by an above average unemployment rate which include many former blue collar workers and a high proportion of migrants. These changes are reflected in the workers narratives on the basis of personal experiences and feelings of belonging with reference to the southern quarters of Nuremberg. In their narratives it becomes palpable that worker identities today are different but not irrelevant for everyday life and for senses of belonging.