Wagh-Quasebarth: Musical Instrument Makers, Appalachian Forests, and the Re-enchantment of Livelihood and Material in West Virginia

Grants and Contracts Details


This project will examine how meaningful, productive musical instrument craft relationships are co-constructed between makers and materials in the forests of the Allegheny region of West Virginia. Like other global rural communities, the region’s residents are confronted with a dilemma of continuing to embrace logics of extraction or seeking more sustainable means of economic development in the sprawling, diverse forests covering eighty-five percent of the land. Extreme examples of this tension are present elsewhere in West Virginia where policy privileges practices like mountaintop removal coal mining over forest and community sustainability (Bell 2013; Scott 2010). Acknowledging dominant ideologies of extractive materiality, I explore other coexisting relationships of material and labor through the anthropology of craft by considering the symbolic, material, and political economic aspects of the craft process. I engage with interpretive theories of materiality and political economy to investigate makers’ views on the re-enchantment (Jenkins 2000) of labor and materials through the ongoing, processual relationships between trees, maker, wood, tools, and instruments often mediated by knowledge and experience of forest landscapes. The active roles of meaning-making, material properties, and human skill in a process enmeshed in global political and economic spheres will be studied in this ethnography of that asks: how do instrument makers’ experiences and knowledge of Appalachian forest environments influence the meaning of labor in their relationships with wood through the craft process?
Effective start/end date6/1/176/30/18


  • Lambda Alpha: $2,000.00


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