Campus News

'Place Matters' in Appalachia, Beyond


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 21, 2011) - Now more than ever, in the context of a globalizing world and internationalizing curriculum, place matters. And the University of Kentucky has always responded to the need to serve Kentucky through analyzing the connections between the local and the global.

"Place Matters," a four-part lecture series exploring the importance of place in research, pedagogy and citizenship will continue the global conversation, according to UK sociology professor and series organizer Dwight Billings.

"We aim to focus on how place matters in Appalachian Studies, but also, how our concerns — the role of place in scholarship, teaching and citizenship — are shared across many disciplines and programs at UK," Billings explained. "While the theme of connectivity can be found throughout 30 years of work in Appalachian Studies, we continue to discuss our region's connection to a wider world with its constant flow of populations, resources, and ideas."

Ann Kingsolver, professor and chair of the University of South Carolina's Department of Anthropology, will open the series with a lecture titled "'Placing' Futures and Making Sense of Globalization on the Edge of Appalachia" at 3:30 p.m., Feb. 24 in the John Jacob Niles Gallery.


UK anthropology professor Mary Anglin and UK sociology professor Keiko Tanaka will participate as discussants in Kingsolver's lecture.

Kingsolver noted, “In studying globalization, it can be useful to combine long-term research in a particular place with comparative research across global regions. I will be comparing the ways people working in the tea industry in Sri Lanka and the tobacco industry in Appalachia make sense of global capitalism.”

Kingsolver's ethnographic research in her home community of Nicholas County, an area situated between the Appalachian foothills and the Bluegrass, spans 25 years.

“Nicholas Countians have taught me a lot about why place matters in making sense of globalization,” said Kingsolver. “In the context of the current economic crisis, for example, residents of Appalachia and other world regions that have been marginalized in some discourses may be at the forefront of global conversations about alternative ways to organize economies.”

Kingsolver counters stereotypes of rurality in her latest book, "Tobacco Town Futures: Global Encounters in Rural Kentucky." She documents the ways in which Nicholas Countians, including young people, have analyzed globalization and its local effects, and planned alternative futures for their community as textiles and tobacco have contributed to less to livelihoods in rural Kentucky.

"The whole settlement of the Appalachian region reflects a global process that is reflected in work patterns, community life, food ways, music and other cultural patterns that synthesize diverse elements of worlds from Africa to Western and Eastern Europe," explained Billings. “Blue Grass music, to give but one example, combines Appalachian traditions with African and European musical traditions and instruments in a new and creative synthesis of musical languages."

"The world has had a profound impact on the daily lives of those living in Appalachia, and the ripples of the world economy can be felt here daily," he added.

Sponsored by the Appalachian Studies Program , the College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and the Appalachian Graduate Research Community, Place Matters continues through April.

In addition to an elite group of visiting scholars, discussants from areas like Asian Studies, Indian Studies, English, Sociology, Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies will be reacting to the papers.

"We too often tend to discuss important matters in the isolation of our own disciplines -- not always reaching across the academic silos that we inhabit," said Billings. "We're hoping to reach across those disciplinary barriers to provoke new conversations."

The Appalachian Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program of the College of Arts and Sciences that includes faculty affiliates in Arts and Sciences and the Colleges of Education, Fine Arts and Health Sciences. The program is devoted to promoting scholarship and teaching about Appalachia and service to the Appalachian region, as well as bringing together and augmenting our collective, university wide strength in Appalachian research and education.

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