Magnetic Power of Strangeness: Coal mines, War Victims, and Waste Dumps at DGSKA 2021 Conference
Strangeness sticks to places like a chewing gum into a sole of one’s sneakers during a summer day. Landscapes are not just passive witnesses of material transformations, social practices, or entanglements. Rubble of post-industrial landscapes seems to invite new engagements that perpetuate certain classificatory logic. Building upon my ethnographic research of wastescapes in Bohemia, I examine a history of an industrial landscape from 19th century coal mining till current recultivation. After their abandonment, the mines became part of a liminal demarcation zone at the end of the World War II. It served as a place for killing and burial of the victims whose lives were lost in a turmoil of the war. Subsequent transformations into an industrial dump and later formal landfill reflects attempts to manage absences and forgetting. While the strange is supposed to become absent, it never really disappears. Using a metaphor of magnetism, I demonstrate that strange entities and activities attract each other along a spatiotemporal continuum. I argue that strangeness sticks to places and tends to perpetuate itself through a series of magnetic relations over time.