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Appalachia in the Making The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century Edited by Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight B. Billings, and Altina L. Waller University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1995 408 pp. Cloth, $49.95 Reviewed by David E. Wtlisnant, professor of English and adjunct professor of American studies, communications studies, and Latin American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Whisnant is the author ofModernising the Mountaineer: People, Power andPlanning inAppalachia, All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics ofCulture in an American Region, and Rascally Signs in Sacred Places: The Politics of Culture in Nicaragua. Since the early 1960s a great deal ofexcellent scholarly work has emerged on Appalachia . Much of that work is the product of a conscious effort by younger scholars—a number of them represented in this volume—to correct unfounded misconceptions that had long flourished not only in popular forums but in scholarly works as well. Following Thomas Ford's The Southern Appalachian Region: A Surveyin 1962 and eastern Kentucky lawyer Harry Caudill's Night Comesto the Cttmberlands in 1963, a steady stream of books challenged received accounts of the region 's history and culture. Much of this scholarship has focused on the coalfields, however, to the exclusion of the majority of the region (which has no coal), and relatively litde of it has treated the nineteenth century. Appalachia in the Making remedies much of the latter deficiency, and to a lesser extent it rebalances the overemphasis on the coalfields. Be advised, however, that the "mountain South" treated here consists for the most part of a four-state area: Kentucky, North Carolina , Virginia, and West Virginia. Except to varying degrees in a few of the essays, there is nothing on the mountain or coal-bearing portions ofanother halfdozen states (Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee ) that have long been included in most definitions of Appalachia, or on several others (Alabama, Mississippi, New York) that were pork-barreled into the region during the 1960s. A number of the essays recapitulate their authors' earlier monographs, but that is not necessarily bad. Read in close sequence with each other, the essays gain force and precision, and taken together they provide a tight synthesis for any student or scholar who has not followed these issues during the past several decades. 92 Reviews Framing their approach, the editors observe that "the historical marginalization of Appalachian economy, culture, and society [seems] to be mirrored in its representations—or lack thereof—within national historical debates." Hence a central aim of the volume is to deconstruct the "myth of Appalachia" that is based on a "discursive knowledge of an intertextual reality . . . rather than historical knowledge ofan actual place." The essays "showcase the new historical studies and bring Appalachia's historical experiences more forcefully into national discussion." The volume as a whole is an effort "to push the examination of mountain social life back further in time, ... to deconstruct the concept of an essential and universalistic Appalachian past . . . [and to map] the points of similarity to and difference from the setdement and transformation experiences in other rural locales across the nation." Accordingly, a lucid introduction surveys dominant and alternative interpretative paradigms, and sketches the debates among scholars over the merits ofcompeting theoretical models. It invokes the work of the "new" social historians, without failing to question some ofits more romantic aspects. It looks forward to the opening of "second level" Appalachian history that will reveal the region's preindustrial history, explore the dynamics of capitalist development and the incorporation of Appalachia's subregions into the capitalist world system, and interrogate gender, class, and racial relations. The book is a major and welcome contribution toward all of these ends. Appalachia in the Making's thirteen essays treat a wide range of topics, from Cherokee accommodation and persistence to deforestation and the transformation ofagriculture in West Virginia. Challenging received interpretations, authors necessarily balance between bringing readers up to date on the state of scholarship and pushing toward fresh analysis. The paradoxical theme that emerges is that "nineteenth century Appalachian regions and communities, when carefully scrutinized, resemble in fundamental ways regions and communities elsewhere in the United States." This conclusion challenges "the long...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 92-97
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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