Bridging Ruptures. The Re-Emergence of the Antwerp Diamond District after WW II

Sebastian Henn, Eric Laureys

Abstract


“Diamonds love Antwerp” – these three words constitute the present slogan of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the organisation concerned with the promotion of the diamond trade and industry in the Scheldt city and keeping the latter an important diamond hub in the age of globalisation with new diamond centres evolving especially in low-cost countries like China and Thailand (The New York Times, May 31 2005; EVEN-ZOHAR 2006, 371ff.). In fact, diamonds seem to have loved Antwerp even in the past as the city has been a major centre for trading and polishing the precious stones since the 15th century (WALGRAVE 1993, 37). Despite some ups and downs there had not been any interruption of the commercial activities in this sector until World War II reached Belgium and trading as well as processing diamonds gradually were discontinued (LAUREYS 2005, chapter 5f). Surprisingly, however, the Belgian diamond sector experienced a long-lasting boom after 1945, contributing significantly to the country’s economic power even though the former infrastructure had partly been taken away or destroyed, many workers had fled, been deported or killed and other diamond centres had evolved during the years of the German occupation (VAN DYCK 1989). Given these aspects, the paper on hand addresses the question whether the window of locational opportunity arising after the abrupt break of the trajectory was restricted by past structures that actually have favoured the re-emergence of the cluster at its former location. By doing so, two aspects of conceptual interest are concerned as well: On the one hand, evolutionary literature up to now has emphasised chance as the major determinant of the emergence of regional trajectories thereby neglecting the underlying social processes. Furthermore, due to the concentration on concepts like path-dependency and lock-in potential ruptures in the development of clusters were only seldom taken into account yet (BATHELT/BOGGS 2005; 2003).

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P-ISSN 1618-2111, E-ISSN 2196-3509