Dr. Nora Küttel currently researches and teaches at the Institute for Geosciences and Geography at the University of Halle. In her post-doctoral project, she is interested in the multiple transformations and crises of labor in East German shipyards over the past 35 years.

Nora holds a doctoral degree in Geography from the University of Münster. Her doctoral thesis analyzed the interrelations between art and space in Detroit from an ethnographic perspective. With a master’s degree in Urban Design and a bachelor’s degree in Geography, Nora’s further research interests lie in critical urban studies, cultural geography, and transformation processes, as well as ethnographic and creative research methods and feminist methodology.

Current project: Loss in Transformation: Work, Identity, and Space in East German Shipyards

The research project investigates the multiple transformations of East German shipyards and is particularly interested in the intersections of labor, loss, and space. The investigation focuses on the shipyard workers who were/are exceedingly exposed to the constant uncertainties and disruptions caused by closures, divestments, and bankruptcies of the shipyards, beginning with German reunification in 1989/1990.

Concentrating on the period from 1989 until today, the research project looks at transformations as processes of dis/continuities and asks how workers experience, interpret, and remember transformation processes and which social and cultural phenomena and relationships, spaces, and identities are lost, reshaped, or overwritten in these processes. As the topic of loss – alongside space and labor – is a framing element of the project, it further addresses which individual and collective strategies of adaptation, resilience, and/or resistance to (the threat of) loss are deployed.

The project applies a qualitative approach that seeks to bring together different methods and materials. It combines material from archival research (company magazines, collections of newspaper articles, political speeches, and photographs) and expert interviews with narrative interviews with (former) workers.

Thus far, the project has identified that job insecurity, anxiety about the future, dissatisfaction as well as disappointment, disenchantment, frustration, and shock are reoccurring emotions expressed by workers from the 1990s up until today. But they are also met with, and sometimes even disrupted by opposing emotions of hope, optimism, enjoyment, pride, and satisfaction. Interestingly, both strands of emotions can be accompanied by a strong identification with the shipyard labor and the product (the ship). The project now follows up on these first findings, focussing especially on their wider meanings for the everyday life and the identity construction and reconstruction of workers as well as their place attachment and detachment.

Website: https://digital.geo.uni-halle.de