'Scrap-heap' stories: oral narratives of labour and loss in Scottish mining and manufacturing

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This article is an attempt to comprehend deindustrialisation and the impact of plant downsizing and closures in Scotland since the 1970s through listening to the voices of workers and reflecting on their ways of telling, whilst making some observations on how an oral history methodology can add to our understanding. It draws upon a rich bounty of oral history projects and collections undertaken in Scotland over recent decades. The lush description and often intense articulated emotion help us as academic ‘outsiders’ to better understand how lives were profoundly affected by plant closures, getting us beyond statistical body counts and overly sentimentalised and nostalgic representations of industrial work to more nuanced understandings of the meanings and impacts of job loss. In recalling their lived experience of plant run-downs and closures narrators are informing and interpreting; projecting a sense of self in the process and drawing meaning from their working lives. My argument here is that we need to listen attentively and learn from those who bore witness and try to make sense of these diverse, different and sometimes contradictory stories. We should take cognizance of silences and transgressing voices as well as dominant, hegemonic narratives if we are to deepen the conversation and understand the complex but profound impacts that deindustrialisation had on traditional working class communities in Scotland, as well as elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-21
Number of pages14
JournalBIOS - Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebensverlaufsanalysen
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • oral history
  • oral narratives
  • scottish mining
  • Scottish manufacturing


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