- Appalachia Revisited: New Perspectives on Place, Tradition, and Progress ed. by William Schumann and Rebecca Adkins Fletcher
Politicos and social critics are currently engaged in an Appalachian fact-finding crusade, aimed at explaining heavy pro-Trump returns in coal country. More often than not, these efforts miss the mark. When media periodically redis-cover Appalachia, their coverage is rarely nuanced or even factual. Anthropologists William Schumann and Rebecca Adkins Fletcher noticed this tendency two years ago in the media’s coverage of the War on Poverty’s fiftieth anniversary, the Elk River chemical spill, and a Kentucky snake-handling mishap. Schumann argues that a multidisciplinary consideration of Appalachian place and place-making is a more instructive strategy for studying and understanding the area. Appalachia Revisited: New Perspectives on Place, Tradition, and Progress, part of an edited series on Appalachian place, includes an impressive array of theoretical, methodical, and contextual approaches to serious regional scholarship.
Appalachia Revisited includes an introduction by Schumann, a “(re)-introduction” by Adkins Fletcher, and an appendix of classroom teaching activities for each entry. The authors organize the articles into four conceptual parts: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender; Language, Rhetoric, and Literacy; Economy and Environment; and Engagement. Part One includes reflexive research on female cancer survivors in East Tennessee and southwestern Virginia, concepts of Affrilachian identity reflected in musical performance and video-sharing commentary reaction, female political engagement—and its limits—in western North Carolina, and a consideration of Appalachian identity and gender intersectionality among young West Virginians. Scholars and activists explore Appalachian identity and urban outreach efforts in Cincinnati, identity tensions in Appalachian New York digital-marketing efforts, and regional speech differences in West Virginia in Part Two. Part Three contributors consider the impact of fracking on northern Appalachia, stereotyping and commerce in tourist art, central Appalachia’s troubling prison economy, and the tourism-authenticity tension on Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. In Part Four, activists and scholars describe the efficacy of hybrid qualitative-quantitative community studies, the benefits of social capital to adequate housing efforts in central Appalachia, historical outreach and its role in uncovering untold stories in Appalachian Alabama, and the importance of scholarly activism, via critical participatory action research, in environmentally compromised portions of Appalachia.
As educator Jacqueline Yahn points out in her entry, “A central aim of Appalachia Revisited is to help readers reexamine the place Appalachia is as [End Page 75] opposed to the place it is often imagined to be” (141). Schumann, Adkins Fletcher, and most of the contributors reach this goal. The editors skillfully organize fifteen unique articles into a logical framework and provide thought-provoking and substantive context to the work as a whole. Schumann ably lists the collection’s goals, defines “place” and “place-making,” and offers a solid historiography in his introduction. Adkins Fletcher reflects on the Elk River spill, compellingly reminds the reader of Appalachia’s national and global interconnectivity, revisits the articles, and places Appalachia Revisited within Appalachian Studies.
The entries are well written and capably researched, and showcase numerous cutting-edge research models and conceptual frameworks. Ultimately, Appalachia Revisited works because it operates as a kind of print version of a compelling academic conference. Students, scholars, educators, and activists from disparate disciplines and from all over the region present instructive considerations of place and place-making in modern Appalachia. While jargon from unfamiliar subjects may temporarily entangle readers, most will find enrichment in numerous articles. For example, literature instructor Yunina Barbour Payne’s use of YouTube videos and comment-section commentary as a source base in her exploration of Affrilachian identity perception is particularly novel. Appalachian historians will find political scientist Amanda Zeddy’s study of Louise Broyhill and her political engagement in postwar North Carolina instructive. Regional educators and their students will also benefit from the teaching exercises listed in the Appendix.
Appalachia Revisited is a serious and important contribution to multidisciplinary efforts in Appalachian Studies. As one scholar recently remarked, “Our stuff is seeping out from under the woodwork and beginning to make...