Liam Devitt (they/them) is the Associate Director of Deindustrialization and the Politics of our Time. They are a writer and public historian with work featured in Jacobin, THIS, Briarpatch, Active History and more. Prior to becoming the Associate Director, Liam was a student member of DePOT during their masters research at Concordia University with Dr. Steven High, where their thesis examined how deindustrialization affected Cape Breton’s queer communities. More broadly, they are interested in the fallout of the post-war compromise and its effects on queer communities, labour struggle, and industrial policy. Originally from Calgary, Liam calls Montreal home.  

Project statement: 
“Gay Steel Mill: Queer Oral Histories of Deindustrializing Cape Breton” (completed MA thesis) 
Queer history in Canada has often centred around metropolitan areas, like Toronto and Montreal, usually foregrounding social movements. This means that queer histories of the periphery are often overlooked, and that histories of metropole are taken as representative of the national context. In this thesis, I examine queer oral histories of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Through these oral histories I aim to complicate dominant narratives in both queer history and histories of deindustrialization in Canada. Cape Breton is a former steel and coal region in Nova Scotia that underwent a comparatively slow, state-managed deindustrialization in the latter half of the 20th century. Today, like in deindustrialized areas across the world, the “structure of feeling” of industrial life remains, despite plant and mine closure. Often, histories of deindustrialization center around a mythologized white male (and indubitably heterosexual) breadwinner, centering not just workers, but the specific function that masculine industrial labour played in the social reproduction of the Fordist accord in the household. By taking up the life stories of queer people, we can critically examine this centring of the nuclear family in deindustrialization studies. In the first chapter, I offer a theoretical and historiographical intervention arguing for a queer investigation of deindustrialization. In the second chapter, I apply this line of thinking to oral histories of Cape Breton queers, arguing that these narrators’ desires for queer history and queer future are ultimately filtered through the prism of deindustrialization’s half-life.