Appalachian culture and resistance

Karen Tice, Dwight Billings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Tavid Cattell-Gordon’s (1990) recent interpretation of Appalachian culture as culturally transmitted post-traumatic stress syndrome dramatizes the human costs associated with deindustrialization and unemployment. But it overlooks oppositional movements and actions in Appalachia and, consequently, the discussion minimizes the possibilities for agency and empowerment. Such an interpretation relies upon a one-sided reading of Appalachian history and incorrectly attributes a unified cultural ethos to the region. By offering an interpretation of regional cultures as discursive forums rather than as complexes of traits, we suggest an alternative approach for progressive social work in Appalachia as well as other regions experiencing economic crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Progressive Human Services
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 23 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1986), militarism (Schlesinger, 1983), violence against women (Tice, 1990), and other social concerns. These current struggles build on efforts begun during the late 1960s and early 1970s when battles for control of Office of Economic Opportunity projects, civil rights activism, union and occupational health and safety reform movements, welfare rights, and poor people's campaigns reinforced each other (Whisnant, 1980; Black, 1990). Several of these groups, such as Save Our Cumberland Mountains are still active today. They are joined by new organizations and receive support from leadership training organizations such as the Highlander Center and region-wide funding and resource-sharing organizations such as The Commission on Religion in Appalachia and, earlier, the Council of the Southern Mountains. One particular configuration of organizations deserves special attention. In 1977 the Tug River, located on the Kentucky-West Virginia border, flooded and left thousands homeless. Angered at being forced to live in crowded flood plains because of absentee ownership and frustrated by the governments' inability to find alternative sites for relocation, local activists called for support from other regional groups to form a federation of grassroots organizations known as the Appalachian Alliance. In addition to providing an important region-wide forum and publishing educational materials (Appalachian Alliance, 1978; 1979; Horton & Einstein, 1982) the Alliance helped to launch the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force (1983). With funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and training in research methods by the Highlander Center and scholars in the Appalachian Studies Association, the task force coordinated the efforts of indigenous researchers to investigate land ownership and taxation in 80 counties across the region .(Beaver, 1983). The task force's documentation of vast amounts of minimally-taxed land and mineral resources owned by absentee firms spear-headed tax reform efforts in Tennessee and Virginia as well as challenges to mineral leasing practices in North Carolina. The information was also used in a successful court battle in West Virginia that ruled the inequitable school funding methods in that state unconstitutional (Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force, 1983). Even more importantly, the project empowered indigenous re-

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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