IN MARCH 2017, VIRGINIA TECH WILL HOST “EXTREME APPALACHIA,” THE 40TH ANNUAL APPALACHIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE.
“By ‘extreme’ we mean the impassioned commitment people have to the region, the land, and Appalachian ways of life,” says conference chair Anita Puckett, who is also an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture. “The title also reflects the ways extreme economics—the excessive extraction of resources, underfunding of public services, and dismal job opportunities—have sparked community resilience and activism. We hope this conference will help advance a sustainable future for the region.”
The conference title further refers to exploitative images in popular culture, such as reality-television depictions and hillbilly-horror movies, adds program chair Emily Satterwhite, an associate professor in the same department. “Regionalist scholarship continues to explore ongoing struggles for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice,” she says. “We want to celebrate the countering power of the region’s visual, performance, and literary arts to nurture, provoke, and inspire.”
Program highlights will include a keynote by James Hansen, a renowned climatologist at Columbia University, and “Extreme Appalachia! Rage and Renewal,” a plenary convened by Barbara Ellen Smith, a Virginia Tech sociology professor, and Stephen Fisher, a professor emeritus at Emory & Henry College.
The conference is sponsored by the Appalachian Studies Association, which was formed in 1977 by a group of scholars, teachers, and activists passionate about the region. It will be the first time in more than 20 years that Virginia Tech has served as host.