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Envisioning the Industrial Present: Pathways of Cultural Learning in Luxembourg (1880s-1920s).

This paper examines how and to what extent Luxembourg society was “exposed” to visual representations of the prospering steel industries and labour and working-class culture(s) from the 1880s until the 1920s – a period of massive industrialisation – and how it thus gradually “learned to labour”. Indeed, modern visual media were seen as ideal catalysts for the circulation, transmission and production of meaning, since they were considered to be appealing, objective, direct and capable of inspiring the imagination. The paper takes the reader through various mundane moments and events of industrial enculturation (annual funfair, slide lecture, vocational school, etc.) and engages with different “technologies of display” (photographs, fair albums, postcards, scale models, etc.) that subtly calibrated, conveyed and inculcated the new industrial reality “through the eye” and, in the process, (re)produced national identifications. By zooming in on these different “visual encounters” with industry and by bringing these isolated encounters together in one story, the paper (re)constructs a “learning route” – one among many possible pathways through this huge dynamic field of learning resources (or, “cultural ecology”) – and thus suggests how (informal) “cultural learning” might have taken place at the time. While accompanying us on this journey, the reader gains insights into how this field of resources evolved and how the industrial present was (re)framed, visually performed and (re)configured over time.

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