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Transforming Places

Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia

STEPHEN L. FISHER
BARBARA ELLEN SMITH
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcjnd
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  • Book Info
    Transforming Places
    Book Description:

    In this era of globalization's ruthless deracination, place attachments have become increasingly salient in collective mobilizations across the spectrum of politics. Like place-based activists in other resource-rich yet impoverished regions across the globe, Appalachians are contesting economic injustice, environmental degradation, and the anti-democratic power of elites. This collection of seventeen original essays by scholars and activists from a variety of backgrounds explores this wide range of oppositional politics, querying its successes, limitations, and impacts. The editors' critical introduction and conclusion integrate theories of place and space with analyses of organizations and events discussed by contributors. Transforming Places illuminates widely relevant lessons about building coalitions and movements with sufficient strength to challenge corporate-driven globalization._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Fran Ansley, Yaira Andrea Arias Soto, Dwight B. Billings, M. Kathryn Brown, Jeannette Butterworth, Paul Castelloe, Aviva Chomsky, Dave Cooper, Walter Davis, Meredith Dean, Elizabeth C. Fine, Jenrose Fitzgerald, Doug Gamble, Nina Gregg, Edna Gulley, Molly Hemstreet, Mary Hufford, Ralph Hutchison, Donna Jones, Ann Kingsolver, Sue Ella Kobak, Jill Kriesky, Michael E. Maloney, Lisa Markowitz, Linda McKinney, Ladelle McWhorter, Marta Maria Miranda, Chad Montrie, Maureen Mullinax, Phillip J. Obermiller, Rebecca O'Doherty, Cassie Robinson Pfleger, Randal Pfleger, Anita Puckett, Katie Richards-Schuster, June Rostan, Rees Shearer, Daniel Swan, Joe Szakos, Betsy Taylor, Thomas E. Wagner, Craig White, and Ryan Wishart.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09376-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INVOCATION
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Marta Maria Miranda
  6. INTRODUCTION: Placing Appalachia
    (pp. 1-16)
    Stephen L. Fisher and Barbara Ellen Smith

    We live in a world of many Appalachias. These are places of extravagant natural wealth and enduring poverty, places where the raw consequences of unsustainable economic practices predicated on human and environmental exploitation are unusually stark. These places include the oilfields of the Niger Delta, the Himalayan forests of India, the coalfields of Colombia. Far from the great urban centers of global power, these are nonetheless sites of critical economic activity because they contain the arable land, abundant water, fossil fuel deposits, and other resources on which the global economy depends. These places also represent some of the weakest links...

  7. I. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS:: PLACE, IDENTITY, AND CULTURE

    • CHAPTER 1 Stop the Bombs: Local Organizing with Global Reach
      (pp. 19-31)
      Ralph Hutchison

      It could be a classic Appalachian organizing story: outsiders with a plan take over the land and its rich resources, locals line up for jobs in the company town. Local power is constrained by economic dependence on the absentee employer—big decisions that impact the lives of everyone in the valley are made hundreds of miles away by wealthy members of the ownership class. This is a company town: the company controls information in the local press, health care through the local medical center, and air and water because its size insulates it from meaningful oversight by state officials. Discouraging...

    • CHAPTER 2 RAIL Solution: Taking on Halliburton on the Home Front
      (pp. 32-46)
      Rees Shearer

      Grading the path of an ancient bison trail, highway builders constructed Interstate 81 along Virginia’s mountainous spine in the 1960s. I-81 was one link in realizing President Eisenhower’s dream for safe travel on a seamless national asphalt web, free from tolls and traffic lights. Its route along the Blue Ridge and through the Appalachian Mountains literally links small valley communities and their destinies together and to the world, just as it did for centuries.

      Settlers variously called the time-worn thoroughfare Warrior’s Path, the Great Road, and Valley Pike. Indian, settler, and Civil War soldier fought in turn alongside the road....

    • CHAPTER 3 This Land Is Your Land: Local Organizing and the Hegemony of Growth
      (pp. 47-62)
      Nina Gregg and Doug Gamble

      On a Sunday afternoon in February 2006, about fifty middle-aged white people listened to Matt Murray, chair of the Blount County Economic Development Board (EDB), address the annual meeting of The Raven Society (TRS) at the Blount County Public Library in Maryville, Tennessee. EDB’s purpose is “to bring new industry to the area.”¹ The goals of TRS, a local community organization, include promoting sustainable development and preserving the rural character of the county. As the meeting ended, someone asked if there was a limit to the growth the county could accommodate and retain its attractiveness as a place to live....

    • CHAPTER 4 Identity Matters: Building an Urban Appalachian Movement in Cincinnati
      (pp. 63-77)
      Phillip J. Obermiller, M. Kathryn Brown, Donna Jones, Michael E. Maloney and Thomas E. Wagner

      Ernie Mynatt was an early leader in the Appalachian identity movement in Cincinnati. The Hazard, Kentucky, native saw that low-income migrants to Cincinnati would not receive human services as long as they remained an invisible minority. He once jokingly suggested, “We ought to paint ’em green” before the migrants, many from the eastern Kentucky coalfields, crossed the Ohio River into the city.¹

      Others from the Appalachian mountains had been coming to Cincinnati since the early 1800s. Following World War II, mountaineers came by the thousands to find jobs in southwestern Ohio. A part of this Great Migration, Mynatt, a former...

    • CHAPTER 5 Appalachian Youth Re-envisioning Home, Re-making Identities
      (pp. 78-91)
      Katie Richards-Schuster and Rebecca O’Doherty

      Young people in central Appalachia face significant challenges becoming active participants in their communities and in making the decisions that shape their lives. They grapple with confusing messages and experiences that both celebrate and denigrate their culture and communities, disconnecting youth from their homes and from positive individual and collective identities. To be successful, young people are told—sometimes even by their families—they have to leave their mountain communities. At the same time, the history of resistance, the desire to connect to culture, people, community, and land, and the richness of culturally based assets have the potential to position...

    • CHAPTER 6 Resistance through Community-based Arts
      (pp. 92-106)
      Maureen Mullinax

      From their lifelong activism in the American South and the Appalachian coal-fields, veteran cultural workers Guy and Candie Carawan learned that cultural traditions of music, poetry, and drama can be used strategically to forge a shared experience and develop a collective identity in social justice efforts: “singing together, even in the face of terrible difficulties, can be empowering.”² The Carawans emphasize, however, that these cultural responses do not arise naturally but must be cultivated by individuals and organizations attuned to deliberately strengthening resistance movements “by building on their own heritage and adding contemporary expressions from the new struggle.”³

      In this...

  8. II. WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE:: BRIDGING DIVIDES

    • CHAPTER 7 Organizing Appalachian Women: Hope Lies in the Struggle
      (pp. 109-121)
      Meredith Dean, Edna Gulley and Linda McKinney

      More than two hundred women have played leadership roles in the Appalachian Women’s Alliance since our “Dawning Ceremony” in 1992. Thousands have been touched by our work. Defying traditional stereotypes, the women among us have been black, white, Hispanic, and Native American, poor, working, and middle class, lesbian and straight, with and without traditional education, rural and urban, wageearners, and welfare mothers. This chapter represents the perspectives of three of those women, Edna Gulley, Linda McKinney, and myself, each of whom has been deeply and consistently involved throughout our twenty-year herstory.

      EDNA: I used to feel like I shouldn’t be...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Southern Empowerment Project: Homegrown Organizing Gone Too Soon
      (pp. 122-132)
      June Rostan and Walter Davis

      The Southern Empowerment Project (SEP) was a unique community organizing school created in 1986 by five southern and Appalachian community-based groups.¹ The founders sought through SEP to address a problem confronting many urban and rural community groups in the region: the difficulty of finding and training organizing staff.² Volunteer leaders (not staff) of the member groups comprised the board of directors, thereby ensuring that they, along with the professional organizers, would direct and shape the programs as well as govern this new regional intermediary organization. Over the lifetime of SEP, the member groups changed, but the core idea of a...

    • CHAPTER 9 Center for Participatory Change: Cultivating Grassroots Support Organizing
      (pp. 133-147)
      Craig White, Paul Castelloe, Molly Hemstreet, Yaira Andrea Arias Soto and Jeannette Butterworth

      Since 2000, the Center for Participatory Change (CPC) has helped organize, support, or train thousands of grassroots leaders in more than 150 community groups, grassroots networks, and worker-owned cooperatives in western North Carolina. As the five staff members of CPC, we have written this chapter to share some lessons we have learned about organizing in Appalachia in the twenty-first century.

      When we first started our work, there was no blueprint to follow. We borrowed techniques from community organizing, approaches from popular education, and the philosophies of participatory rural development. From there we made the road as we walked it, learning...

    • CHAPTER 10 Faith-based Coalitions and Organized Labor: New Forms of Collaboration in the Twenty-first Century?
      (pp. 148-163)
      Jill Kriesky and Daniel Swan

      In the current political era, the centrality of religious belief and the institutional power of organized religion are undeniable. From international acts of terrorism to local school textbook controversies, people moved by their religious beliefs and guided by their church leaders have mobilized political and social movements that have changed the course of history. Most familiar in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century are examples of right-wing religious influences—both evangelicals and Muslims—that profoundly influenced presidential elections and foreign policy. But also in this era, progressive mainline denominations and even traditionally conservative evangelical churches have...

    • CHAPTER 11 Talking Union in Two Languages: Labor Rights and Immigrant Workers in East Tennessee
      (pp. 164-180)
      Fran Ansley

      Like every part of Appalachia, east Tennessee has been deeply affected in recent decades by global economic transformation. Social justice activists there have been struggling for years to understand and respond to these developments and to the difficult social divides they have created and exposed. This chapter recounts from the perspective of a participant-observer the story of one local response and suggests lessons for future social justice efforts in the region.

      A rapid increase in the movement of industrial capital from east Tennessee to countries of the Global South constituted the early leading edge of the corporateled, “free trade” brand...

  9. III. CLIMBING JACOB’S LADDER:: SCALING UP

    • CHAPTER 12 Virginia Organizing: The Action Is at the State Level
      (pp. 183-197)
      Joe Szakos and Ladelle McWhorter

      For decades, community organizations in West Virginia and the Appalachian sections of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia have struggled to determine the best level or “place” to push for economic and social justice and environmental reforms. Should they work exclusively in their home communities? Should they develop regional—geographically and economically based—alliances across state lines, or should they concentrate their efforts inside their own states, disregarding links that cut across government-imposed boundaries? Some groups have focused on their Appalachian identity and fashioned plans without worrying about political boundaries. Others have worked exclusively on local issues while hoping someone else would...

    • CHAPTER 13 OxyContin Flood in the Coalfields: “Searching for Higher Ground”
      (pp. 198-209)
      Sue Ella Kobak

      The last time I saw Little Paul alive, he was halfway under his trailer fixing his water line. It was mid-August 2008, and his dad was nearby, “supervising.” Little Paul ducked his head out and gave me a nod with a smile that reminded me he was his father’s son. A few weeks later my husband and I attended his funeral.

      On an otherwise beautiful September evening, the first impression is, how do so many cars park safely to allow access to the church and let other vehicles drive past? We parked to the side, leaving the car jutting out...

    • CHAPTER 14 Not Your Grandmother’s Agrarianism: The Community Farm Alliance’s Agrifood Activism
      (pp. 210-225)
      Jenrose Fitzgerald, Lisa Markowitz and Dwight B. Billings

      The story of Kentucky’s farm economy is a story about tobacco. Tobacco has not only been a key source of income for small farmers in the state, it has long been a way of life and source of pride for those producing it. For more than seventy years, Kentucky’s tobacco farmers depended on the federal tobacco program, which aimed to “spread the wealth” among growers by limiting the amount of tobacco each farmer could grow and guaranteeing them a set price for their product. Primarily because of the success of this program, Kentucky had one of the highest numbers of...

    • CHAPTER 15 Mountain Justice
      (pp. 226-238)
      Cassie Robinson Pfleger, Randal Pfleger, Ryan Wishart and Dave Cooper

      In July 2005, a traveling horde of sixty Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) activists crowded into an old general store on Route 3 in Naoma, in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia. The sagging brick building was not air-conditioned but had electricity, Internet access, and some filthy old sofas. Most activists slept on the floor and ate food salvaged from the dumpster of a supermarket in nearby Glen Daniels. The oven quit working, and the overpacked refrigerator started to die. Flies, the stench from an overflowing septic tank, and the steaming West Virginia summer quickly made life for the activists...

    • CHAPTER 16 Who Knows? Who Tells? Creating a Knowledge Commons
      (pp. 239-251)
      Anita Puckett, Elizabeth Fine, Mary Hufford, Ann Kingsolver and Betsy Taylor

      With a land mass the size of Rhode Island denuded by mountaintop removal coal mining, the southern Appalachian coalfields have become a national sacrifice zone. Confined to less populated areas, beyond the view of travelers on major highways, this growing social and ecological disaster has been invisible for decades to nearly everyone, including environmental activists, in the United States. A long history of viewing Appalachia as outside mainstream national concerns has contributed to this invisibility. Cyber-activism is changing this neglect by making images of mountaintop removal (MTR) and its impacts accessible to Internet users. But the astonishing invisibility of MTR...

    • CHAPTER 17 North and South: Struggles over Coal in Colombia and Appalachia
      (pp. 252-266)
      Aviva Chomsky and Chad Montrie

      This chapter examines links and disjunctures among several different constituencies associated with coal mining struggles in southern Appalachia and Colombia. It focuses particularly on the interactions among labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice campaigns in both places. The orientation and goals of the different organizations have sometimes coincided or been mutually supportive, but in other moments, they have sharply conflicted. The swings between collaboration and tension, solidarity and single-minded defense of self-interest, speak to a complex mix of factors, including varying economic conditions, definitions of “union” issues, and conceptions of environmentalism.

      During the first decade of the twenty-first century,...

  10. CONCLUSION: Transformations in Place
    (pp. 267-292)
    Barbara Ellen Smith and Stephen L. Fisher

    “Place” in Appalachia is, for many who call it home, the place of mountains. As the ground on which we stand, this place is at once material and symbolic: tangible residue of geologic time, the mountains are also the home of our memories and the imagined landscape of our future. Invoking mountains as the “place” of Appalachia does not mean, of course, that all residents find this the most personally relevant depiction; nor does it mean that place, more generally, is a physical backdrop or fixed and bounded territory. Although in one sense specific to individual context and biography (birthplace,...

  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 293-298)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 299-323)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 324-324)