Honors in History
Date of Award
Daryl A. Carter
Thesis Professor Department
Tom Lee, Elwood Watson
Appalachia, itself a difficult to resolutely define region, has undergone the economic forces of colonialism and industrializing capitalism which allow for an excellent case study to apply Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony. No American region’s national conception is likely to have been as varied and often misrepresented as that of Appalachia. From the Revolutionary American State’s invention of early white settlers as the virtuous yeoman of the Republic to the modern perception of Appalachia as backwards, conservative, and drug-addled, shifting national economic conditions resulted in a constant invention of Appalachia in congruence. Whenever the people residing in Appalachia, whether Black, white, or indigenous, either failed to represent or directly challenged the interests of empire or profit, ideas and perceptions of the region subsequently shifted accordingly. Utilizing secondary sources which have attempted to paint an overarching narrative of the region and primary sources recounting contemporary individuals’ views on said region’s people, the broad arc of cultural hegemony’s construction in Appalachia is traced in this thesis. From Thomas Jefferson’s invention of the virtuous and integral small land holding settlers in the region to Theodore Roosevelt’s shifting of national consciousness away from Appalachian settlers and into the proverbial international settler frontier, tracing the ideas of state leaders within the American Republic and profit-focused interests allows for a general timeline of social invention to be traced. The constructed timeline insinuates that one thing remained certain throughout Appalachian history: constantly changing perceptions of the region almost directly followed changing economic and political agendas. Further, after an exploration of how Black and white Appalachians indeed presented a counter-hegemonic movement necessarily connected with the rest of the nation in the form of the Mine Wars, Appalachia as a proverbial helpless region apart is argued to be ultimately a false conception. In response to this conclusion, a responsibility arises for those with the power of narrative and cultural production. Meaning, as academics or scholars, those Antonio Gramsci deemed the intellectual base of any given economic class, conscious counter-narrative production steeped in consciousness of exploitation and class antagonisms becomes objectively necessary. In fact, this work concludes, without an intellectual counter to dominant minority economic interests, social invention of often exploited regions will and do continue unabashed and unopposed.
East Tennessee State University
Honors Thesis - Open Access
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Harris, Zachary, "Coal, Land, and Ideology: Inventions of Appalachia in the Mind of the American Ruling Class" (2022). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 689. https://dc.etsu.edu/honors/689
Copyright by the authors.