Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Removing Mountains

Removing Mountains: Extracting Nature and Identity in the Appalachian Coalfields

Rebecca R. Scott
Series: A Quadrant Book
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Removing Mountains
    Book Description:

    In this rich ethnography of life in Appalachia, Rebecca R. Scott examines mountaintop removal in light of controversy and protests from environmental groups calling for its abolishment. Removing Mountains demonstrates that the paradox that faces this community—forced to destroy their land to make a wage—raises important questions related to the environment, American national identity, place, and white working-class masculinity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7532-6
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Logic of Extraction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Something irrevocable is happening to the land in southern West Virginia. The coal-mining technique known as mountaintop removal (MTR) is permanently altering the topography of the Appalachian Mountains. Even though this process is quite literally explosive (workers use large amounts of underground explosives to loosen the rocks and soil above the coal seam and huge earthmoving machines to remove this overburden and mine the coal), the process is happening quietly, it seems, behind people’s backs. Usually mountaintop mines are hidden just behind the ridge visible from the road; often an educated eye can detect a mountaintop mine signaled by sparse...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Hillbillies and Coal Miners: Representations of a National Sacrifice Zone
    (pp. 31-64)

    Thomas Jefferson’sNotes on the State of Virginiacontained a full accounting of the natural resources available in the part of the world that would become West Virginia, including the coal (Jefferson 1794; Myers 2005). His catalog of the riches awaiting the colonizers of this territory foreshadowed the way that the region would become a sacrifice zone for the nation; the coal in the Appalachian Mountains is America’s coal reserve. Today the national interest is mobilized to support the coal industry against its critics; in a time of energy crisis and war, the argument goes, it is time to put...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Men Moving Mountains: Coal Mining Masculinities and Mountaintop Removal
    (pp. 65-94)

    As the Sago mine disaster coverage in the national media made clear, coal mining is symbolically associated with specific forms of masculinity and community. These associations have multiple and often contradictory valences regionally and nationally. Many of the symbolic forms of masculinity that mining communities take pride in are devalued in the national discourse and associated with backwardness. For instance, coal mining masculinity is articulated with traditional gender relations in the family; a coal miner is a provider, but this form of masculinity is frequently portrayed as threatening to or oppressive of women when it is depicted in the national...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Gendered Politics of Pro–Mountaintop Removal Discourse
    (pp. 95-114)

    The tiny town of Blair, West Virginia, has a violent history as the site of a famous battle in the Mine Wars of the 1920s, when militant union miners fought to install the union in Logan County by force (Savage 1990; Shogan 2004). Nearly eighty years later, Blair was the site of another conflict, this time over MTR coal mining. In 1998 residents filed a lawsuit against the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for failing to enforce regulations that call for a buffer zone to protect streams. Although surface mining regulations theoretically require companies to return the rocks...

  9. CHAPTER 4 ATVs in Action: Transgression, Property Rights, and Tourism on the Hatfield–McCoy Trail
    (pp. 115-136)

    There is a striking contradiction in the cultural politics of MTR: the same people who support and affirm the necessity of MTR also claim to love the natural beauty of the region. Although coal industry supporters may not see this as an inconsistency (because they apparently believe that reclaimed mountaintop mines are also beautiful), this contradiction nonetheless requires management in the public discourse. How can MTR possibly make sense in a place that calls itself “the Mountain State”? One of the entry points to understanding this inconsistency turns out to be the all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or four-wheeler. ATVs, like dirt...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Coal Heritage/Coal History: Appalachia, America, and Mountaintop Removal
    (pp. 137-168)

    Ever since the “great land grab” of the late nineteenth century, southern West Virginia has been defined as a coalfield. The coal industry’s priorities have determined the local economy, culture, and geography. While some see the way MTR is rapidly transforming Appalachian landscapes and communities as economic progress, activists counter that this extensive resource extraction is incompatible with nearby communities and ways of life. The politics of MTR lay bare the uneven roots of America’s postindustrial economy, raising questions about the meaning and direction of the American nation and Appalachia’s place within it. In the national media, images of Appalachian...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Traces of History: “White” People, Black Coal
    (pp. 169-206)

    Appalachian identity is tricky. This trickiness has something to do with the historical permutations of racial formations in the United States, as well as relating to the complex intersections of these with gender and class formations and the ways that people relate to nature. These intersections and cultural articulations help explain both the flexibility and the intransigence of social categories. Race, gender, and class, along with other cultural formations like region and the human/nature relation, interact in ways that are mutually reinforcing yet overdetermined in their possibilities. These complications enmesh Appalachian whiteness in a number of contradictory stories that both...

  12. CONCLUSION: Coal Facts
    (pp. 207-222)

    Coal Factsis a biannual summary of coal production information released by the West Virginia Coal Association. The 2006 edition included two remarkable yet at the same time quite ordinary advertisements. The first was for Walker Cat, a heavy machinery equipment company, and featured a photograph of a white heterosexual couple dancing. The woman is wearing a tight, strapless red evening gown; the man is dressed in the uniform of an underground miner, reflective stripes marking his arms, legs, and groin. The ad copy reads as follows: “West Virginia has the hottest coal on earth, and the world’s greatest coal...

  13. APPENDIX: Guide to Participants
    (pp. 223-226)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 227-240)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-262)
  16. Index
    (pp. 263-271)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-272)