Reclaiming the Mountain: From Consumptive Production to the Productive Consumption of West Virginia

Authors: Nathan Thayer*, University of Delaware
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: productive consumption, diverse economies, Appalachia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Harding, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Appalachia has long been defined by the coal deposits contained in its soils. As the region transitions into a post-coal economy, national discourses and scholarly work continue to portray Appalachia in relation to coal (or, lack thereof). While such a view provides valuable insights into the impacts of the coal industry, it also narrows our view to only seeing coal and capitalism where a diversity of activities may exist. In this paper, I push back against the narrative of “coal country”, which homogenizes Appalachian lives and economies. Applying Marx’s dialectic of production-consumption and a diverse economies framework, I re-read Appalachia’s post-coal economy as diverse through a recently established beekeeping collective in West Virginia. Focusing on the different ways West Virginia’s land and labor have been, and are being, consumed, provides entry to seeing the diversity of economic activities, arrangements, and possibilities existing in a region long seen only through its relation to coal. Re-reading Appalachia not only brings to light the diversity of economic livelihoods already in place, but allows us to move away from asking “what’s left” in Appalachia, to what’s possible.

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