Lachlan MacKinnon is the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) In Post-Industrial Communities at Cape Breton University. His recent book Closing Sysco: Industrial Decline in Atlantic Canada’s Steel City uses oral history to explore the intersections of political economy, bodily health, and environmental changes wrought by deindustrialization. MacKinnon’s research relates to the history of capitalism and deindustrialization, with special focus on environment and ecology, labour and occupational health, oral history, and state policy.
Lachlan MacKinnon traces the global forces that shape deindustrialization – from capital mobility to public policy and technological advancement – and underscores the ways in which industrial decline has irrevocably informed social relationships, ecology, culture, and economy in post-industrial places.
Three primary lines of inquiry inform his research. The first explores deindustrialization in transnational perspective, drawing together disparate experiences from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Secondly, oral histories are used to underscore the health and environmental impacts not only of industrial production, but of the sites and spaces that remain in the aftermath of workplace closures. Lastly, the use and re-use of post-industrial landscapes is interrogated to reveal how collective experiences of industrial production remain contested within public memory and through industrial heritage sites.
MacKinnon’s current research focuses on the transnational influences on the emergence of industrial development policy in Atlantic Canada between 1956 and 1970. Under the Premierships of Robert Stanfield and G.I. Smith, Nova Scotia embarked on a series of radical interventionist economic approaches to forestall the impacts of deindustrialization in coal and steel. These included the nationalization of the provincial steel industry, the establishment of various provincial Crown corporations geared towards industrial and economic development, and the implementation of economic planning. MacKinnon’s work traces the intra-regional influences of other Atlantic premiers as well as the international dimensions of these decisions to provide a transnational perspective on this pivotal moment in the history of deindustrialization in Canada.