Ruhrgebiet 2010‎ > ‎


From Coal to Culture: 
The Ruhrgebiet in Transition

Graduate students from across Canada are invited to apply to participate in an exciting interdisciplinary program providing unique first-hand insights into present-day Germany. Supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), The Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University / Le Centre canadien d'études allemandes et européennes at Université de Montréal are offering a ten-day study tour to the Ruhr region—formerly the industrial heart of Germany, now the European Capital of Culture. In addition, successful applicants will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the Ruhr region related to the themes of the study tour.

The Ruhrgebiet is one of the largest urban agglomerations in Europe and is inhabited by some 5.3 million people in such notable German cities as Duisburg, Oberhausen, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, and Dortmund. Once Europe’s largest industrial region, the Ruhrgebiet has undergone a period of dramatic
change since the 1960s as the coal and steel industries traditionally at the centre of the life in the Ruhr have been buffeted by the dramatic changes.. While the initial response to the decline of these traditional industries was denial, since the 1980s local decision makers and residents have come to understand the
structural changes taking place in the Ruhr economy as an opportunity for a fundamental economic, social, and cultural modernization. Increasingly, new high-tech industries, research labs, and centres of knowledge have emerged to replace the old mining pits and smelters. In addition, cities throughout the Ruhrgebiet
started to musealize their industrial heritage turning these sites into attractive, fascinating tourist sites. Nothing better represents the dramatic and often astonishing change that has taken place than the fact that the city of Essen—representing the whole Ruhrgebiet—has been selected the European Capital of Culture 2010. Today the Ruhrgebiet serves as a model for the radical economic, social, and cultural transformation of a former industrial region without the denial of its historical roots. 
Our Study Tour will deal with the political, economic, social, and cultural implications of the changes and try to assess the successes as well as the challenges still facing the Ruhr region. In order to get as many different perspectives as possible, the group will meet with individuals and institutions from a variety of
backgrounds and interests. Amongst those we intend to speak with are politicians from the state, and municipal levels, representatives of private business and unions, academics, civic activists, urban experts, engineers, marketing strategists, artists, etc. Tour Themes

We will particularly focus on the following inter-related themes:

1) Industrialization – De-Industrialization 
Industrial Culture Industrialization in the 19th and early 20 th centuries as well as de-industrialization processes that have occurred since the 1960s have driven structural development in the Ruhrgebiet. We will consider the economic, social, and cultural consequences of these processes as well as the current reinvention of the Ruhrgebiet on the basis of industrial heritage.

2) Industrial and Post-Industrial Forms of Urbanity
Industrialization has shaped the urban landscape of the Ruhrgebiet. We will explore the very specific forms of urbanity resulting from this as well as present-day activities to revitalize or even to create new urban centres.

3) Renaturalizing Industrial Landscapes
The massive exploitation of natural resources has had a deep, sometimes disastrous effect on the environment. Since the 1980s and the beginning of the IBA Emscher Park project, a series of “Landscape Parks” have been created connecting pre-industrial, industrial, and post-industrial zones together to form a unique cultural and natural landscape.

4) Migration and Integration in Past and Present
As Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhrgebiet witnessed a massive influx of Germans and nonGermans alike. Recently, the trend has been reversed with the Ruhrgebiet losing population. The importance of migration in general will be explored as well as the mechanisms of integration and
disintegration with a particular focus on migrants from non-German backgrounds.

5) Global Challenges and Regional Identity
In the process of its formation as a region, the Ruhrgebiet developed its own identity expressed in specific forms of labour relations, working-class associations, language and literature, culture, and last, but not least, soccer. We’ll take a closer look at the ongoing process of production of meaning and identity in the context of past and current challenges like industrial decline and globalization.

6) Towards a Knowledge Society: Science and Education
With the largest density of academic institutions in Europe, the Ruhrgebiet has become an enormous source of science and education. We’ll explore the role of these institutions in the restructuring of cities and the entire region as well as the current challenges they are facing.

The Study Tour is open to all students currently enrolled in a graduate program at a Canadian university. If 
you do not have a legal status in Canada as citizen or permanent resident please contact us before you 

While facility in German is not a requirement, student participants should feel comfortable working in a 
German-speaking environment.  

To augment the support from the German Academic Exchange Service, student participants are asked to 
contribute $500 to help pay for transportation and accommodation during their ten days in Germany. Meals 
will be participants’ responsibility. 

Successful applicants will be provided an extensive introductory reader and are obliged to prepare for the 
Study Tour by participating in an online-seminar about four weeks ahead of departure. Moreover, they will 
be expected to make a substantive contribution to the success of the tour both by serving as a discussion 
facilitator during one of the tour's half-day modules and contributing to some kind of joint publication upon 
the tour's completion. (The form of such a contribution is open and potential participants are encouraged to 
contemplate what form this might take (text, photos, film, etc.). 

Please indicate in your application if you’re seeking course credit for participating in the study tour and 

How to Apply / Further Information 
Interested students are asked to submit the following:  
  • Letter of Interest outlining why you wish to participate and how, if relevant, the tour would complement your graduate program (2 pages max.) 
  • Transcripts from Post-Secondary Study (print-outs or copies acceptable)  
  • Documentation demonstrating German-language facility (e.g. high school or university transcripts, DaF test results, etc.)  
  • In case you are interested in an internship (at least four weeks of duration) following the study tour, please indicate your specific field of interest in your application.