The fifth seminar in ESRC funded series on organizational history took place in a rather damp Birmingham on Wednesday 15th June. With the key theme of the day being Nostalgia, one might have forgiven the delegates a wistful look back to the June days of their past. Nonetheless, sprits were high despite the weather and our off-campus location alongside the canals of post-industrial Digbeth provided a fitting setting for the day’s programme.
The first speaker for the day, Yannis Gabriel (University of Bath), initiated proceedings with a fascinating look at the role of nostalgia as a supporting feature of right-wing ideology. Moving away from his previous perspectives on nostalgia as a relatively benign phenomenon, the research instead focuses on those times where its existence can be leveraged for the aggressive promotion of a return to a past seen as better. Based on this, Yannis argues that nostalgia fuels authoritarian ideologies and movements by constructing the past in mythical terms that is free from the features of modern society that such groups see as undesirable.
Following on from this, Constantine Sedikides (University of Southampton) shared his studies on the relevance of organizational nostalgia in work meaning. These looked at nostalgia as a factor in the reduction of employee turnover as well as observing the benefits it can provide to those suffering from burnout. Constantine goes on to suggest that where there are high levels of burnout, organizational nostalgia gives a rich source of meaning that is of benefit to employees work experience.
After lunch, Agnès Delahaye (Université Lumière Lyon II) started the afternoon session off with her presentation on usable pasts and the role nostalgia plays as a device for promoting an author’s version of a given history. The research centred on the writings and historiography relating to the founding and development of New England. It is ultimately suggested that at times, history as a practice of caring about the truth, rather than a discourse, is idealistic.
Eva Heesen’s (Leibniz Universität Hannover) followed with her research on the role of nostalgia within museum exhibitions and the
vistors’ use of such exhibitions as a form of mental escape. The talk highlighted the importance of balancing the educational role of museums with the need to provide an emotional experience to visitors. Her paper argues for nostalgia as escapism, which is seen as an indistinct longing for a recognizable but notably different version of reality.
The final session by Marie MacLean (University of Bath) and Charles Harvey (Newcastle University Business School) focused on the uses of oral history and narrative interview techniques within business history. The research explores the use of such methods as way to capture subjective experience and in doing so looks at nostalgia of East Germans for the time before reunification with West Germany.
Thank you to all the speakers, session chairs and the delegates for the engaging and lively imput throughout the day. Announcements regarding the sixth seminar in this series will be published shortly and will be posted here on the Organizational History Network. For further information on the above presentations please follow this link – Fifth ESRC seminar series in Organizational History – Abstracts