Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Nurith Zmora

Second Advisor

Joseph Swenson


This case study of northeastern Minnesota examines the economic, social, and cultural consequences of deindustrialization as it occured in the 1970s and 1980s. Operating under the understanding that deindustrialization is a symptom of the latest systemic transformation in capitalism, this case study helps us understand the interplay between global restructurings of world capitalism and the voices on the ground - those workers and residents in communities caught up in the sweeping tide of industrial decline. Through national, regional, and labor newspapers, recorded interviews, and interviews carried out by the author this research illuminates a particular reaction to economic decline: the commodification of historical memory and identity. With the sudden instability of traditional forms of industry, planners and politicians turned toward extracting industrial heritage as a new resource to be sold in a ‘postindustrial’, neoliberal world. Through the analytical use of Critical Theory and the careful consideration of local voices, the effects of such commodification are revealed. Commodified industrial history was sanitized, nostalgic, and carefully crafted to be as palatable and marketable as possible. This inaccurate and rose-tinted form of history in turn obscures the realities of the historical development of capitalism: that it is an economic order which requires constant change, expansion and therefore creates volatility.








Departmental Honors Projects