Individual Paper: Wild and Wonderful: investigating narratives of degrowth in Appalachia
Narratives of degrowth written and told by Appalachian people are embedded in the cultural afterlife of the history of the ongoing exploitation of the landscape, labor, and people of the Appalachian region. What do narratives of degrowth in Appalachia look like? The history of Appalachia presents a unique challenge for imagining what degrowth means for a space transfigured by the fossil fuel industry’s absentee ownership of the region’s commodities, the centuries long legacy of the precarity of labor in a mono-economy, and the physical and cultural aftereffect of uneven development. This essay provides a framework for understanding the way in which Appalachian people, artists, writers, historians, and theologians imagine the possibilities of degrowth by investigating registers of cultural production from fiction, poetry, lyrical discourse in music, written theology, folklore, and regional histories. From written works ranging from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia’s people’s pastoral "The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us" to Affrilachian poet Crystal Good’s poem "BOOM BOOM," the body of literature engages with narratives of environmental trauma and offers space for reprisal in their various articulations of imaging the potential process of degrowth. In situating these narratives in historical context with the consequences of regional uneven development, labor exploitation, unending extraction and dumping, and a simultaneous “forgottenness” and “otherness” experienced by Appalachia’s people and culture, I seek to employ a material ecofeminist approach for understanding the way in which these stories are told, for whom they are told, and why they are shared. In the aftermath of the felt effects of these forces of exploitation, these sites of cultural production posit responses that range from “What next?” to “What now?” to configure their proposed solutions and I seek to explore what these narratives mean for degrowth in the Appalachian imagination.
Start time: 11:00
Track: Degrowth: Culture, Power and Change