The Internal Colonialism of Appalachian Absentee Land-Holdings: A Critical Analysis of the Appalachian Regional Commission

Authors: Annelise Straw*, American University
Topics: Land Use, Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Appalachia, land tenure, absentee ownership, internal colonialism, food sovereignty, rural communities, exploitation
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The political economy of Central Appalachia is deeply rooted in the land. In the Appalachian region, coal and mineral extraction, coupled with timber extraction, tobacco, and other agriculture, have shaped the history, culture, and the power and politics of the region. While the love of the land and sense of place have been important in the culture of the region, it can be argued that a greater influence has been one of exploitation of the land and its resources. Within Central Appalachia, the land is rife with natural resources, but large, absentee corporations, not the region’s people, own and reap the benefits of these resources.
Appalachia is a critical example of internal colonial domination by outside interests. Through this work, I argue that large corporate landholdings in Appalachia restrict access to land by local residents, increase the political influence of corporate oppressors, and decrease food sovereignty in the region. The history of the region also demonstrates the concentrated efforts of the exploiters to label their work “progress” and to blame any of the issues they cause on the ignorance or deficiencies of the Appalachian people. Through analysis of the 1978 Appalachian Land Ownership Survey, I show how residents have been pushed off the land and had their labor exploited in the mining and timber industries all to benefit the agendas of absentee landholders. The aim of this research is to show that, by virtue of the predominance of absentee land owners Appalachia has an internal colonial economy restricting local land-tenure.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login