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Studi e ricerche

N. Yearbook (2020): Italia contemporanea yearbook 2020

Making sense of the industrial past: deindustrialisation and industrial heritage in Italy

  • Gilda Zazzara
20 luglio 2021


This article analyses the relationship between deindustrialisation and industrial heritage by considering recent studies on the topic. Although Deindustrialisation Studies and (Industrial) Heritage Studies focus on distinct phases of industrial change — schematically a “before” and an “after” of the history of industry — these fields increasingly converge on the role of the memory of the industrial past in the present. The essay examines these convergences in the Italian context, looking at the history of industrial archaeology and the difficulty of recognising a specifically “Italian deindustrialisation”. It argues that history, especially environmental and labour history, can play an important role in this dialogue. In the last part, the article focuses on the industrial area of Porto Marghera (near Venice) and analyses the major cultural events that were organised for its centenary. It argues that this is an example both of “deindustrialisation without industrial heritage” and of “industrial heritage without the memory of deindustrialisation”. This makes it difficult to develop a shared elaboration of the area’s industrial past and of its future.


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