History and Memory in Gentrifying St-Henri

HIST 390 – Urban History Laboratory
Winter 2021, Department of History, Concordia University

Instructor: Fred Burrill

This seminar investigated the competing historical narratives and systems of memory at play in the working-class yet rapidly gentrifying Southwest Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. Once the heart of industrial production in Canada, Saint-Henri experienced a brutal deindustrialization process in the second half of the twentieth century and is now at the centre of the storm of speculative real estate development sweeping the city. As working-class and poor communities fight for their right to remain in the neighbourhood, they also have to resist the historical erasure of their political struggles and ways of life.

This course was a collaboration with neighbourhood groups the POPIR-Comité Logement, Solidarité Saint-Henri and the À Nous la Malting Collective, as well as the transnational research partnership on Deindustrialization and the Politics of Our Times (DePOT). Using a variety of digitized archives, interviews, fiction, film, and secondary sources, students enrolled in this seminar produced original, public-facing research and research-creation projects that will help to advance the campaign to create an industrial heritage and working-class history museum as part of a broader community development project on the site of the abandoned Canada Malting plant. Finally, this course was also an exercise in the use of social media for public history education. Each student in the class took a turn managing social media profiles set up for this project, to share their research and reflections on history and memory in Saint-Henri. Follow the Twitter feed here.