As coal-mining employment and production levels reach historic low levels in the Appalachian region, institutions and actors articulate divergent discourses of what futures may be possible for the Appalachian region. Using Ada Smith's (2016) notion of "Appalachian Futurism" as a point of departure (understanding how theorizations of the past structure and limit what is imaginable for the future), I analyze the ways that a federal grants program, the POWER Initiative, frames Appalachia's economic transition. Through analysis of program documents and investments, I identify how particular discourses of development lead to programmatic foci of interventions around "entrepreneurship" and "workforce development." I then look at an alternative framing of the discourse of economic transition: one that posits a development agenda focused on improving quality of life for communities, as opposed to job and business creation. Drawing on documents from the Highlander Research and Education Center and on a dozen interviews with economic development practitioners, I detail the ways institutions and actors frame and reframe discourses as part of ideological struggle. In the conclusion, I examine trends for the future development of the region and offer policy suggestions for a more just economic future in the coalfields.


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pp. 343-356
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