Mode of Program Participation

Academic Scholarship

Participation Type


Session Title

Exploring Critical Theory for Appalachian Scholars and Activists

Session Abstract or Summary

Appalachian Studies has often reflected a deep and sincere interest in self-reflection and critique. Recent volumes like Berry, Obermiller, and Scott’s Studying Appalachian Studies and Schumann and Fletcher’s Appalachia Revisited reexamine the theoretical underpinnings of Appalachian Studies highlighting the field’s historical strengths and weaknesses while also imagining the field’s future trajectories. As scholars elsewhere enthusiastically embrace important theoretical and practical innovations, this roundtable will explore what these innovations illuminate within Appalachian Studies. The panelists share a desire to advance Appalachian Studies by applying interventions from queer and feminist thought, theories of racial formation, analyses of neoliberalism in urban/rural economic restructuring, and critiques of Eurocentric traditions of knowledge.

The panel will begin with short remarks explaining a selection of recent developments in critical theory (broadly construed) with which Appalachian Studies in general has yet to engage. We intend to provide a straightforward and relatively jargon-free introduction to these materials and to note how they overlap or conflict with the concerns of thinkers and activists in Appalachia today. An extended Q&A and breakout discussions will follow our presentations. The panel places special emphasis on accessibility, discussion, and timeliness as we further our practices of self-reflection and together explore some valuable new tools for contemporary Appalachian scholar-activism.

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Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary


At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Judson Abraham is a PhD student in Virginia Tech’s ASPECT program (Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought). Judson’s research interests include globalization, social movements, political economy, and labor politics.

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At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Stephen Pearson is an adjunct instructor at Shawnee State University, which sits on occupied Shawnee land. His research investigates the intersections of critical Indigenous and settler colonial studies, Marxian political economy, and Appalachian studies.

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At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #3

Dr. Gabriel Piser is a political ecologist who specializes in the areas of environmental studies, political theory, contemporary social and environmental movements, and critical/collaborative action research. His work examines how contemporary development conflicts are transforming people and landscapes. He uses theoretically informed and interdisciplinary research methods to study environmental injustice and to imagine and enact alternative forms of regional development. He brings together the natural and social sciences with tools from media and cultural studies to better understand how Appalachia is changing and being changed.

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At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #4

Hilary Malatino is currently Assistant Director of the Woman’s Studies Program at East Tennessee State University and LGBTQ Caucus Chair for the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association. Prior to moving to Southern Appalachia, they were the Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender, Race, and Science in the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Their research interests include queer theory, trans and intersex studies, science and technology studies, feminist bioethics, continental philosophy, and decolonial thought

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At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #5

Anna Keller is a Berea College nursing student and an Appalachian Medical Solidarity medic. She worked from 2001 to 2015 in militarized crises including Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Ms Keller is curious about rural drug trafficking, home health care, labor and agrarian radicalism, Hegelian philosophy, and practices that politicize or militarize. She occasionally blogs at

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At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #6

Mary Anglin is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky and a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Appalachian Studies. Her work addresses issues of health inequalities, the effects of environmental pollution, relations of advocacy and social justice.

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