09.00 The Pedagogical Benefits of Critical Heritage Studies: Helping Students to Reveal and Engage with the Complexities of Deindustrialization and Urban Change (Baltimore, USA)
As for many cities with strong industrial legacies, including those that were once racially segregated, Baltimore provides profound opportunities for learning about the sociocultural impacts of industrial decline, as well as urban regeneration, gentrification, and related racial and socioeconomic challenges. Among many industries that were based in the city, Baltimore was home to what was once the largest steel mill in the world, Sparrows Point, which operated for 125 years and closed in 2012 with devastating effects at the community level. In addition, Baltimore has been shaped by numerous waves of immigrants (as well as refugee and political asylee communities) from the US and overseas, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through to today. Indeed, a significant portion of these immigrant communities worked at the steel mill and in the many other industries of the region. For instance, it was historically common for residents of the Greektown neighbourhood of the city, which takes its
name from being a largely Greek area that is undergoing a recent influx of Latino residents and higher-income “gentrifiers,” to have worked at the mill and other nearby factories and plants.
In this light, there exists a complex web of historical and cultural legacies that continue to shape the city, legacies that are intertwined with broader economic, political, social, and environmental forces, as well. Nonetheless, issues such as gentrification and industrial decline are often oversimplified in the media, and treated as having only two sides. As such, this paper will examine how using a critical heritage studies lens can help university students to better understand these issues and reveal their multiple and complex layers at the local, community-based level.
In particular, the paper will present two case studies based on two different, but related, courses offered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) that focused on guiding student fieldwork in the Sparrows Point Steel Mill and Greektown communities. Through ethnographic research methods, and a main aim of gaining insight into the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of these cultural communities from their perspectives, students have been able to also develop understandings of the nuanced – and often-conflicting beliefs – of community members around issues of deindustrialization and urban change. Using a holistic view of heritage and, thus, stressing its multi-faceted connections to place and broader economic, political, social, and environmental forces, it is argued that heritage is a fruitful starting point for countering the common oversimplification of these issues, gaining better understandings of their complexities, and most importantly, for students to develop their own senses of civic engagement and compassion for others.