Renewing the coal mining past
Parody, languageculture, and the transformation of cultural memory in Heerlen, the Netherlands
This article examines how inhabitants of Heerlen, a town in the province of Limburg in the southeast of the Netherlands, renew the cultural memory of coal mining in the area through parodic linguistic and cultural practices linked to the (re)articulation of collective local and social identities. Heerlen became a center for the coal mining industry in the Netherlands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The closure of the mines between 1965 and 1974 had devastating consequences for the economic, social, and cultural developments of the area. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the region’s mining past, creating new momentum for Heerlen in its transition from a struggling former mining area to a city focusing on long-term socio-economic development and cultural innovation. In this context, new practices of cultural memory are emerging through local performances of language and culture that operate to reconstruct Heerlen’s coal mining past through parodic repetition. By discussing two case studies exemplifying the creative ways in which dominant accounts of the mining past are being rearticulated, we explain how the use of parody may serve to undermine the interacting social norms, identities, and hierarchies that have come to shape cultural memories of mining in communities historically defined by working-class and male-dominated labor. The article integrates linguistic and sociolinguistic research, studies of regional history, and theories of parody rooted in contemporary literary criticism and gender studies, to demonstrate the importance of place-bound practices of languageculture as a compelling force of linguistic and socio-cultural renewal.
Keywords: coal mining heritage, Heerlen Dutch, languageculture , parody, regional identity
Published online: 23 April 2021
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